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Smart Device User Penetration Explodes in South Korea

Users reach for their smart devices throughout the day

The wireless internet is seeing a rapid rise in uptake in South Korea; the number of users of both smartphones and tablets doubled between 2011 and 2012, according to a December report from the Korea Internet & Security Agency (KISA).

KISA surveyed 3,000 consumers in South Korea between the ages of 12 to 59 and found that smartphone penetration among this population rose from 39.2% to 78.5%. That is a staggering increase, which may be partly explained by the age of the consumer sample. South Korea has an aging population, and older consumers are less likely to use a smartphone; KISA excluded older individuals—ages 60 and over—from the study.

eMarketer estimates that smartphone penetration in South Korea reached 51% of the entire population in 2012, up from 38% in 2011. KISA put its data at a 95% confidence level.

The reach of tablets has also more than doubled, although from a much smaller base. KISA found that the larger-screen smart mobile devices reached 7.5% of those between 12 to 59 years old at the end of 2012, up from 3.1% in 2011. The greatest concentration of users was among those between 20 to 29 years old (13.5%). Nearly every individual surveyed in this age range also reported using a smartphone.

The gender split on both devices skewed toward men. Males were 3.3 percentage points more likely to use a smartphone and 1.4 percentage points more likely to use a tablet. On smartphones, the gender gap actually narrowed as use rose between 2011 and 2012. On tablets, the opposite was true. The gender split widened as tablets reached a small but still exponentially larger group of consumers.

Once they have their smart devices, smartphone and tablet users are not hesitating to turn to them often. Three out of five smartphone users reported spending 2 or more hours per day on the device. Even more tablet users are spending time swiping and scrolling. More than three-quarters reported spending over 2 hours on their tablets per day.

As smart device use rises in South Korea, advertisers will have more mobile ad opportunities in a country that already has high levels of mobile ad spending. In a separate December 2012 report from KISA, mobile device users reported that their preferred mobile ad was mobile web display, cited by 31.3% of respondents, followed by search, preferred by 24.6% of respondents.

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Check out today’s other articles, “Brands Leverage Influencers' Reach on Blogs, Social” and “Hotels Strive to Own Organic Search Results.”

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