Mobile social network use rises in APAC

20 November 2009

SINGAPORE: The number of consumers using their mobile phone to access social networking websites in Asia Pacific is continuing to rise, new figures published by IDC, the research firm, show.

IDC conducted a poll of 1,400 adults in the region, and found that over 50% of mobile owners in China, India, South Korea and Thailand have used this device to log on to portals like Facebook, Friendster and Hi5.

More specifically, this figure reached a high of 65% in Thailand and 62% in China, where more than 120 million people are estimated to belong to these types of Web 2.0 services, the China Internet Network Information Center has reported.

The main activities of this group on their phones include uploading photos, updating their status and profile pages, as well as reading and replying to messages, and finding out the latest news.

One key driver of this trend, IDC argued, was the fact more people in China, India and Thailand own wireless handsets than computers.

By contrast, the popularity of this activity in Korea results from the "technologically advanced" nature of the country, meaning "mass adoption of mobile internet" has occurred more quickly than elsewhere.

"Mobile phones and mobile internet hold the promise of changing the SNS landscape in the Asia Pacific region," said Debbie Swee, an analyst at the company.

"Particularly in markets where PC penetration is relatively low, mobile phones have the potential to eventually overtake the PC as a preferred way of accessing SNSs," she added.

At the other end of the spectrum, just 19% of Australian mobile users visit social networks using this platform at least once a week, a total that climbed to 25% in Singapore.

Swee suggested the high level of PC ownership in these nations has produced a "strong inertia against adopting regular mobile access of SNSs."

Across the region, people who had not utilised social networks via their cellphone said the charge they would incur from their service provider was the main barrier stopping them from doing so.

In response, IDC recommended that in China, India and Thailand, a cheap, standardised access fee would help further boost user levels.

By contrast, in Australia, Korea and Singapore, where prices are already low, "operators need to correct users' misconceptions of pricey data plans through advertising and other marketing efforts," said Swee.

"Failing to do so could mean that mobile internet applications and services, not just mobile SNSs, will take longer to truly take off," she warned.

Data sourced from WARC