4G Rollout Spurs 124% Increase in Pakistan's Smartphone Shipments
02 Jul 2015
Shipments of smartphones in Pakistan increased by a massive 124% year on year during the first quarter of 2015, with shipments up 21% when compared with the previous three-month period. That's according to the latest findings from global technology research and consulting firm International Data Corporation (IDC), which attributes the shifting dynamics of the Pakistan mobile market to the deployment of 3G/4G networks across the country and the subsequent rise in demand for devices that are compatible with the new infrastructure.
Pakistan has traditionally been a feature phone market; indeed, just three years ago (2012), 93% of all mobile phone shipments in the country were feature phones since there was no network to support smartphones. Even those consumers that did own smartphones had to be content with only using traditional voice and SMS services. In the last year, however, the market has experienced a drastic shift to the smartphone form factor. According to IDC's Global Mobile Phone Tracker published in Q1 2015, smartphones now account for about 30% of all the devices shipped to Pakistan, up from 25.3% in the previous quarter and from 14.7% in the corresponding period last year. This shift is set to continue, as IDC expects the proportion of smartphones to overtake feature phones by the end of 2017.
The Shift to Smartphones in Pakistan
The rapid shift to smartphones began in 2014 following the deployment of 3G/4G networks in the country. Inevitably, there is now a scrum of vendors trying to get a share of the pie, and as telecom operators deploy infrastructure to the whole country, the level of competition is only expected to increase. Data from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) shows that only about 10% of all subscribers in the country are using 3G/4G networks, so the shift to smartphones will gather even more pace as the numbers of 3G/4G subscribers increase.
Another important factor to consider is that mobile phone penetration currently stands at around 75% in Pakistan, meaning there is a sizeable share of the population that has yet to acquire any type of mobile device. Uptake among these first-time buyers is sure to spur the smartphone market's development even further. Meanwhile, dual device ownership is expected to rise, with consumers increasingly acquiring a smartphone in addition to their existing feature phones, not only so they can capitalize on the added benefits of smartphone ownership, but also so they can leverage the on-net savings that telcos may provide for both voice and data usage.
As the above shift is taking place, the market is witnessing an increase in the number of vendors offering different SKUs of devices. QMobile continues to dominate the market with an overall unit share of 58%, leading in both the feature phone and smartphone segments. Nokia and Voice are the other key players, with shares of 17% and 5%, respectively. The market is also witnessing an influx of new vendors.
Despite QMobile's strong lead, IDC expects competition to intensify as other players like Voice, Samsung, Huawei, and Lenovo make inroads into the market. "We expect to see fluctuations in the market's vendor shares as large global players start to establish a stronger foothold in the market and new players try to gain a slice of the action," says Nabila Popal, IDC's research manager for handsets and display solutions in the Middle East and Africa. "Samsung, for example, initially had a hard time in the Pakistan market, but recent changes to its product mix and target price bands have helped it to finally gain traction in the market, recording a 6% share of smartphone shipments in Q1 2015."
"Vendors that get the right mix in price, product offering, and user experience will have the edge in driving increased share of the smartphone market," says Isaac T. Ngatia, senior research analyst for handsets at IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey. "A great example of this is the success that Huawei has experienced in Pakistan, securing a 7% share of the smartphone market in Q1 2015. This was due to the success of its Y520/Y530 and Honor 3/3C offerings, which had the perfect balance between price and features. As things stand, price will play the most critical role in driving volumes in this market."
The rollout of 3G/4G has certainly helped spur the proliferation of smartphones across the country, although a number of challenges have led to a slower-than-expected start for this burgeoning segment. The main challenge was the requirement from the PTA for biometric sim re-verification in a bid to curb increasing terrorism. The major consequences of this decision were a drop in the user base and the fact that telecom players had to bear the additional costs associated with the required biometric re-verification equipment. However, IDC expects an uptick in the volume of devices as the process is smoothed out.
While the shift toward smartphones is now occurring at a rapid pace, the use of voice and SMS will continue to be a key aspect in the market as consumers are still unfamiliar with the full potential of smartphones. The more this knowledge about what else can be done with a smartphone increases, the faster the adoption rate will be. As such, IDC encourages vendors to improve their ROI and drive increased sales by educating potential customers on how to enhance their experiences from using a smartphone. In addition, identifying and incorporating local content and/or applications is likely to be a key driver of growth; this could be further enhanced by enabling devices to be adapted to the most common languages used in the country.
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