HO CHI MINH CITY: Shipments of smartphones to Vietnam increased by more than half in 2014, driven by budget models, new research has revealed.

Overall, a total of 28.7m mobile phones were shipped to Vietnam last year, an annual growth rate of 13%, according to the Asia/Pacific Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker from market researcher IDC. But the rate for smartphones in particular was more than four times that, at 57%.

Smartphones accounted for 41% of all mobile phones shipped to Vietnam last year, with the proportion growing from 38.4% in the first quarter to 43.2% by the fourth. IDC expected they will eclipse feature phones during 2015 as the availability of low-cost models spreads.

"Rapidly declining smartphone prices have led to the rise of smartphone penetration rates in Vietnam throughout 2014," said Võ Lê Tâm Thanh, senior market analyst/Mobile Devices at IDC Vietnam.

"The low-cost segment has been the main driver – with six out of ten smartphones – as budget models priced below US$150 are shipped to Vietnam."

Vietnamese consumers have not embraced phablets – defined as having a screen size between 5.5 and 7 inches – in the way some other Asian markets have, but IDC observed a shift towards 5 to 5.5 inch screens.

Declining prices were one factor, but Thanh also noted there was "higher interest in internet browsing and mobile gaming on larger screen phones".

Samsung continues to be the smartphone market leader in the country, but only just, with its share halving over the past two years to 26%.

It is now being challenged by Microsoft: Nokia and Microsoft-branded Lumia phones took a 24% share in 2014, up from 16% in 2013.

"Microsoft continues to defy global trends with Vietnam where the company has established a stronghold within the region," said Daniel Pang, senior research manager/ Client Devices at IDC ASEAN.

"However, most of its shipments are targeted towards budget consumers as the lucrative premium segment is still dominated by Apple and Samsung."

Chinese brand OPPO claimed an 8% share, with Taiwan's ASUS (6%) and state-owned Viettel (4%) also standing out from the large number of Others (33%).

Data sourced from IDC; additional content by Warc staff