Apple Shines in Southeast Asia’s Declining Smartphone Market



Apple Shines in Southeast Asia's Declining Smartphone Market

  • Smartphone shipments in five major Southeast Asian markets* fell 13% YoY in Q1 2023.
  • Apple’s shipments rose 18% YoY over the same period.
  • Infinix witnessed a 41% increase as the brand grew in the SEA markets.
  • While the mid-to-high-end ($201-$600) range suffered the most, the >$600 range shipments increased 4%.

Jakarta, Hong Kong, London, Boston, Toronto, New Delhi, Beijing, Taipei, Seoul – May 16, 2023

Smartphone shipments in five major Southeast Asian countries (Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia) fell 13% YoY due to low demand and seasonal declines, according to Counterpoint Research’s Southeast Asia Monthly Smartphone Channel Share Tracker.

All major SEA countries saw a decline in Q1 2023 but some more than others. Countries like Vietnam received more shipments in Q4 2022 and thus OEMs felt the need to reduce volumes in Q1 2023. Consumer sentiment in Vietnam has not fully recovered. Factors like a 10% drop on Samsung production, low smartphone demand in the period after Q4 2022, and reduced revenues for OEMs and operators are also among the driving factors. Indonesia and Thailand fared relatively better than other countries as demand started to improve in March 2023.

Southeast Asia Smartphone Shipments by Major Countries

Source: Counterpoint Research Southeast Asia Monthly Smartphone Tracker

All major SEA countries are emerging from geopolitical impacts from last year while still reeling under some inflationary effects. For example, the Philippines experienced high inflation at the beginning of this year. However, operators continue to remain aggressive in developing 5G and partnering with tech companies. The industry has continued its previous levels of growth as foreign investments are re-entering large economies such as Indonesia and Malaysia. There are also collaborations happening on the financial services front. For example, OPPO in Indonesia partners with banks to provide banking services while AIS, the leading operator in Thailand, partners with Bangkok Bank to provide financial services on digital platforms. Consumers aren’t exactly feeling the improvements on the ground though. Most smartphone purchases are delayed.

Southeast Asia Smartphone Shipments Market Share

Source: Counterpoint Research Southeast Asia Monthly Smartphone Tracker

Vietnam is growing Apple iPhone market. Demand for the iPhone 13 and 14 series was good in Q1 2023. Indonesia also saw growth in iPhone shipments. Overall, iPhone shipments grew 18% YoY in Q1 2023.

Infinix is the official smartphone partner for the Mobile Legends professional league in the Philippines. Infinix has improved in promoting itself as a gaming brand in the region. Overall, although Infinix’s volumes are not on par with leading brands, it continues to grow in the region. The brand grew by 41% in Q1 2023.

While certain brands focused on the beginning of this year, the price range segment favored both consumer groups in Q1 2023. <$200 smartphones witnessed 4% YoY growth despite an overall decline in volumes. With entry-level phone shipments consistently low, pent-up demand spurred higher shipments in Q1 2023. However, not all countries saw an increase in low-end smartphone needs. OEMs in Vietnam are still trying to push these volumes. Low-income Philippine families are saddled with high taxes and inflationary issues, which restrict low-end smartphone purchases. Premium-end ($600) smartphone shipments continued to rise and saw 4% YoY growth. Mid-to-high-end ($201-$600) smartphone shipments suffered the most across the region.

Commenting on the SEA economies in 2023, Senior Analyst Glen Cardoza said, “Southeast Asia is at a stage where different types of consumers are behaving differently. Low-end smartphone buyers are recovering but they’re not there yet. The mid-to-high -end smartphone consumers are holding onto their wallets and expanding their phone ownership, while high-to-premium smartphone consumers are unaffected by the economics of the situation. These consumers will emerge and opting to buy the S series, foldables and iPhones. As 5G becomes commonplace, operators will come up with creative packages and provide options for all types of smartphones. The coming months are likely to see a modest improvement in consumer sentiment as governments ensure that their countries remain unaffected by global macro issues.”

The Vietnamese government is looking to commercialize 5G in the country this year. This will facilitate a new level of manufacturing and consumer use if done sooner rather than later. As the Malaysian government and industry work on the commercialization of 5G and the terms for it, consumers are already equipped with 5G smartphones.

With the increase in tourism in SEA countries in the early part of the year, tourism business and income are likely to increase this year. Countries like Thailand are also focusing on sustainability-oriented eco-tourism initiatives, all through smartphones. All these developments are likely to spell normalcy for the public, leading to a likely improvement in consumer sentiment in the coming quarters.

* Major countries/markets in South East Asia including Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.

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Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research company specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial companies with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analyzes of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.

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Glen Cardoza

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