Southeast Asia’s smartphone market is booming so far this year as China remains sluggish


Smartphone shipments in Southeast Asia have shown a strong rebound in early 2024, contrasting with sluggish trends in other regions. The top five markets in the region witnessed a 20% YoY increase, totaling 7.26 million units, according to Canalys. This follows a market recovery that began in Q4 2023, driven by post-pandemic industry resilience and government support.

Canalys analyst Le Xuan Chiew attributes the resurgence to stabilizing inflation, government support, and positive momentum from year-end 2023 sales events. Smartphone manufacturers, initially conservative, are now adopting aggressive strategies, focusing on trends like affordable 5G, AI integration, ecosystem development, and channel optimization.

In January, Samsung reclaimed the top market share in the region with its successful S24 series launch. However, Chinese competitors such as Xiaomi and Transsion are gaining ground with competitive pricing and new models.

The region’s increasing disposable income and a growing middle-class contribute to the optimistic outlook, contrasting with China’s 7% YoY decline in smartphone sales during the first six weeks of 2024. Factors like consumer confidence and real estate uncertainties affect the Chinese market. Apple faced a 24% decline in smartphone shipments in China during this period, partly due to revived local competitor Huawei.

As growth in major markets slows, brands like Apple and Huawei are turning to emerging markets like Southeast Asia. Canalys predicts a 7% YoY growth in Southeast Asia’s phone market in 2024, compared to a 3% global growth. Apple is planning its first retail location in Malaysia, while Huawei strengthens ties with Southeast Asian partners like Telkomsel in Indonesia.

Indonesia remains the largest market, comprising 38% of shipments in January. The Philippines showed the most significant growth with a 77% YoY increase. Thailand and Malaysia followed, with Vietnam being the only country experiencing a 2% YoY shipment decline.

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