Apple should adapt in Asia

23 November 2011

SINGAPORE: Apple, the electronics giant, could see purchase levels of the iPhone rise rapidly in Asia by changing its strategy, offering lessons for other mobile brands, a report has argued.

Morgan Stanley, the financial services provider, suggested Apple stood to make substantial headway in Asia by increasing the number of carriers it works with throughout the region.

"Because of its favourable demographics, Asia has by far the greatest potential for future smartphone penetration," Katy Huberty, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, said.

More specifically, she revealed that smartphone uptake is typically highest among 25–34 year olds, making up 62% of the user base for these devices globally.

According to Morgan Stanley, the "vast majority" of this age group, some 655m people - or 10% of the world's population - live in Asia, promising considerable opportunities for Apple.

Figures on this measure reached 153m in Africa, 95m in Latin America and the Caribbean, 70m in Western Europe and North America, and just 5m in Oceania.

However, the iPhone's current market share in Asia Pacific, not including Japan, stands at a modest 4.3%, compared with the much more impressive total of 13.5% recorded in North America.

The limited amount of telecoms firms offering the iPhone in Asia is a key reason for this, with Morgan Stanley finding 78% of local carriers, representing 68% of subscribers, are excluded at present.

Some 88% of African and 78% Eastern European carriers face the same predicament, versus 71% of their Middle Eastern peers, 57% in the Americas, 56% in the US and Canada and 36% in Western Europe.

"The iPhone's market share in Asia Pacific .... is very low," said Huberty. "Low market share is closely associated with carrier availability."

Having assessed 760 carriers in 225 nations, Morgan Stanley found subscriber levels posted a compound annual growth rate of 17% from 2007-11, of which half was due the expansion of existing operators, and the rest to newcomers.

Apple has 230 carriers in 105 countries worldwide, leaving it in a broadly equivalent position to Research in Motion, manufacturer of the BlackBerry, in 2008. RiM has some 600 partners today.

Data sourced from Barron's, Apple Insider, Fortune; additional content by Warc staff