In Asia, mobile is the first screen

For over a decade, Asia has been at the forefront of mobile adoption. China is now home to more mobile internet users than any other nation – 557 million, around 86 percent of their online population; South Korea regularly boasts the planet’s fastest mobile broadband speeds; and Japan’s NTT DoCoMo pioneered the mobile Internet with i-mode.

So again, we can look to Asia as a bellwether for mobile development.

The first screen

If you travel to any major city today and use mass public transport, you’re almost certainly used to the sight of people watching streamed video on their mobile devices. In Asia however, that habit has been taken a step further – in Singapore, the smartphone is now also the most-watched and most-used device in people’s living rooms as well. 56 percent of people now use their smartphone as their ‘first screen’ when relaxing at home.

One further survey revealed that more than 67 percent of end-users in India, Southeast Asia and the Middle East prefer mobile as their primary method for watching movies, music videos and TV shows – with just 20 percent of men and 29 percent of women saying that they still choose their televisions first.

No surprise

By the end of 2014 research suggested that mobile users in the UK look at their device 221 times a day on average, and Asia’s shift to a ‘mobile first’ mentality would indicate something similar in that part of the world.

Smartphone penetration is heading for saturation in a number of Asian countries, with Hong Kong and Singapore at 87 percent, Malaysia at 80 percent and Australia at 75 percent. The Singaporeans’ move to using their mobile first in the home doesn’t just mean that they are watching streamed video, YouTube and TV on their handhelds – they are doing much more than that.

Doing more things first on your mobile

Asian end-users are simply reaching for their mobile device first before any other mobile users around the world. E-commerce has enjoyed a mobile boom in the region, with 89 percent of Japanese consumers and 66 percent of South Korean shoppers utilizing m-commerce for shopping. Compare that with the rates of 10 percent in the US and just 7 percent in the UK and it’s quite a contrast.

Search using mobile first is biggest in Asia, with 88 percent of South Koreans searching on their mobile devices. Likewise maps, with 41 percent of Singaporeans using their mobiles for finding directions. The Asia Pacific region leads the world in number of app installs, another indicator of just how much the local population turns to mobile first.

Asia continues to set mobile trends

So as with the trend for smartphones becoming people’s ‘first screen’ for home use and watching TV and video, so too the region continues to set the mobile agenda for the rest of the world. Throughout Asia, often as a result of lower disposable income than European or America, the mobile device is not just a user’s first computer but their only one. Where western IT users may have worked their way up from a desktop PC through a laptop to eventually a smartphone, many users in Asia have never had access to or need for a PC.

In 2013, YouTube revealed that 60 percent of all their video watched in South Korea was via mobile devices – and the rest of the region has followed suit.

Asian end-users are blazing the trail that will more than likely inform what the rest of the world does with its mobiles. In Asia the mobile is the user’s first screen and is becoming their only screen. As mobile continues to set the agenda, it is easy to see the rest of the world replicating the trend.

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Steve Harris

I’ve been writing about technology for around 15 years and today focus mainly on all things telecoms - next generation networks, mobile, cloud computing and plenty more. For Futurity Media I am based in the Asia-Pacific region and keep a close eye on all things tech happening in that exciting part of the world.