Apple resilient amidst SE Asia’s smartphone slump

Apple smartphone sales
Image by hadrian | Bigstockphoto

Despite the diminishing smartphone shipments in Southeast Asia’s key markets, Apple has exhibited a commendable performance. Counterpoint Research’s Southeast Asia Monthly Smartphone Channel Share Tracker highlights a 13% YoY decrease in smartphone consignments across Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia, attributable to reduced demand and a seasonal decline.

Declining smartphone shipments

The first quarter of 2023 observed a decline in shipments across all SEA nations. However, the degree varied. Notably, Vietnam had a sizable shipment in Q4 2022, provoking OEMs to diminish volumes in Q1 2023. Consumer sentiments in Vietnam remain subdued. “Several factors contributed to this downturn, including a 10% drop in Samsung’s production and the habitual low post-holiday demand,” Counterpoint Research noted. On the brighter side, Indonesia and Thailand outperformed their counterparts, witnessing a surge in demand by March 2023.

Most SEA nations are gradually recuperating from last year’s geopolitical challenges, but inflationary pressures persist. The Philippines is a classic example, grappling with soaring inflation. Yet, the telecommunication operators remain undeterred, vigorously pursuing 5G development and striking strategic alliances with tech giants.

As foreign investments trickle back into larger economies like Indonesia and Malaysia, the industry is reverting to its pre-crisis progression. This includes partnerships in financial services, exemplified by OPPO’s banking collaboration in Indonesia and AIS’s alliance with Bangkok Bank in Thailand. However, these enhancements have not percolated down to the consumer level, leading to postponed smartphone purchases.

Apple defies trend

Apple, however, has managed to defy this trend, especially in Vietnam, a burgeoning market for the iPhone. The iPhone 13 and 14 series enjoyed robust demand in Q1 2023. Moreover, Indonesia recorded a notable growth in iPhone shipments, culminating in an overall 18% YoY increase in Q1 2023.

Another noteworthy player in the market is Infinix, the official smartphone partner for the Mobile Legends professional league in the Philippines. Despite not matching the volumes of leading brands, Infinix has grown 41% in Q1 2023, establishing itself as a promising gaming brand.

Glen Cardoza, a Senior Analyst at Counterpoint Research, commented on the SEA economies’ dynamics. He highlighted the disparate behaviour patterns among different consumer groups. He pointed out that while low-end smartphone buyers are slowly recovering, mid-to-high-end consumers are postponing new purchases. On the contrary, premium smartphone consumers remain unfazed by the economic climate, continuing to favour high-end models like the S series, foldables, and iPhones.

The Vietnamese government is gearing up for the commercialization of 5G technology, which could revolutionize manufacturing and consumer usage. Malaysia is also working towards the same goal, with consumers already equipped with 5G smartphones.

The rise in tourism earlier this year in SEA countries hints at potential growth in the sector. Countries like Thailand are focusing on eco-tourism initiatives that leverage smartphones for sustainable practices. These developments might restore normalcy, boosting consumer sentiment in the upcoming quarters.

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