MANILA, Philippines - More Filipinos are expected to ditch their outdated mobile handsets in 2014 and switch to smartphones – those cellular phones that include functions similar to personal computers – as cheaper gadgets flood Asia.
At present, 90% of Filipinos own a mobile phone. However, only 15% of the total handset users own a smartphone, the lowest among nine Asian countries surveyed.
"As we see handset prices come down and as we see better access into the rural parts of the Philippines, from a mobile technology perspective, I do think we'll see a growth penetration of cheaper smartphones into the lower socio-economic class,” said Nielsen Philippines managing director Stuart Jamieson.
Another reason is the “cool” factor.
“It opens up access to things that they haven't been able to access but it also gives them that same feeling of the middle class," said Jamieson.
Adults within the 25-34 year-old bracket are the expected buyers of smartphones.
Brand new smartphones from local handset manufacturers such as Cherry Mobile and My Phone sell for an average of P4,000. There are also the second-hand smartphones in the grey market that can provide functionality to the lower-income class.
In many ways, smartphones have become "the great equalizer" across socio-economic groups, according to Matthew Krepsik, Nielsen's Marketing Effectiveness Executive Director.
"If one gives them access to a world they've never been able to touch, that education, that knowledge, just shifts generations. I can buy a very nice smartphone that gives me just the same amount of access that a very affluent person will have," he said.
Aside from affordability, another factor that could boost its adaptation is internet service, specifically Wi-Fi which is offered for free by most Philippine hotels, coffee shops, malls, and restaurants to customers. Major universities also provide Wi-Fi service to its students.
Wi-Fi is the key driver of data consumption in the Philippines, where only 7% use data plans to access the internet.
"Access to Wi-Fi is something we're definitely looking at in terms of enabling consumers. The other is with cheaper data plans coming from the network operators and better quality of data transmission," said Nielsen Philippines telecom director Carlo Santos added.