SINGAPORE: Smartphones are gaining in popularity in Asia Pacific, suggesting this channel is becoming an increasingly important way for brands to engage with consumers.

According to Canalys, total smartphone shipments in Asia Pacific will rise by 53% to 76.7 million units in 2010, a figure that should reach 100 million in 2011.

The research firm also forecast that the region would become the largest single outlet for this new generation of devices by 2012, when it is forecast to deliver 36% of sales.

China overtook Japan as the biggest market for these technologically-advanced handsets in Asia Pacific in 2009, with 16.3 million units being sold in the country in all.

Given the varying budgets of shoppers in China, Motorola has established a nuanced pricing model, with its products ranging in value from 5,680 yuan ($831; €681; £565) to 1,000 yuan.

"We have to be a leader in China," said Bin Shen, Motorola's head of mobile devices and device product management in China and South Korea. "China is going to lead global growth in smartphone adoption."

"If you want to be a major player in China, you cannot be just in the high end. You have to get into a core set of customers and make sure you offer innovation for the high end quickly."

Nokia, which held a 51% share of the smartphone market in Asia Pacific in the first quarter of 2010, has also formed a tie-up with China Mobile to launch a co-branded app and content store.

China Mobile boasts some 544 million subscribers, and has developed its own smartphone, the OPhone, which utilises Google's Android operating system.

It currently offers more than 200 different handsets, manufactured by organisations from Acer, Dell and Lenovo to Huawei and ZTE.

Apple's iPhone holds a number two position behind Nokia in nearly every Asian nation except China, and has also made considerable progress in challenging markets like Japan and South Korea.

"Mobile phones are aspirational. As you move up in society you'll be looking for a phone that matches your status," Aloysius Choong, an analyst at IDC, said.

"People buy the iPhone because of the image it projects."

Elsewhere, HTC, which is based in Taiwan, is also focusing on producing more expensive handsets that are deliberately targeted at wealthier buyers.

"We don't want to make cheap products. That's just not what HTC does," John Wang, HTC's chief marketing officer, said.

Canalys stated that iPhone shipments would jump by 90% to 9.1 million units over the course of this year as a whole.

Devices using Google Android, including those forming part of China Mobile's portfolio, are due to leap by 861% to 7.1 million units in the same period.

Data sourced from New York Times/Canalys; additional content by Warc staff