SINGAPORE: Vietnam is the fastest growing smartphone market in South East Asia, where sales topped $8bn in the first half of the year according to new figures.

Data from market researcher GfK indicated that, overall, some 39.8m smartphones were sold in the region, up from 36.6m in the corresponding period of 2104.

Sales volumes in Vietnam rose 27% in the first half of 2015 compared to the same period a year earlier to reach to total of 6m, making it the third largest smartphone market in the region, Inside Retail Asia reported.

Thailand was the second-fastest growing market, up 13% to a total of 6.6m, a figure which also put in second place in terms of market size. The Philippines was the third fastest-growing market, up 10%.

Indonesia, however, remains the largest market in terms of volume, with 14.9m units shifted in six months.

Sales growth was sluggish in the mature markets of Singapore and in Malaysia, where consumers have cut back on their spending since the introduction of a general sales tax.

GfK has also started tracking the mobile handset market in Myanmar and reported that 3m units had been sold in the first half, with most of these being smartphones (89%).

"The availability of a wide range of lower price options nowadays have made it possible and much more affordable for price-sensitive consumers in these developing markets to switch over and own their first smartphone," said Gerard Tan, GfK account director for technology.

He pointed out that in the first half of 2013 just 15% of smartphones sold in the region had cost under $100, a proportion that has now climbed to 35%.

Indonesia, he added, was the country with the most number of entry level smartphone brands and consumers in the region.

This transformation is being almost entirely driven by Chinese brands, which now account for around 25% of the region's market compared to 4% in 2013.

"The perception of Chinese brands has been elevated considerably as a result of their heightened marketing campaigns and the opening up of dedicated showrooms and retail counters," Tan said.

Data sourced from Inside Retail Asia; additional content by Warc staff