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Singapore: A glimpse of the Future

Rohit Dadwal, MMA

In its July 2012 report, Countering the Social Messaging Threat, Ovum reports that global telecommunications operators stand to lose US$54 billion in SMS revenues by 2016. Operators are already predicted to lose US$23 billion by the end of 2012. The cause of this loss: increasing use of over-the-top social messaging services on smartphones. Ovum indicates that this is a shift in communication patterns, not a short term trend. This will have the most effect in European and Asia Pacific markets with high levels of smartphone penetration, like Singapore[1].

And smartphone penetration is very high in Singapore, a country that already reports over 7.8 million mobile subscriptions and a mobile penetration rate of over 150 per cent. Recent research by the Mobile Marketing Association reveals that Singaporeans are very fond of their smartphones: 90 per cent of those surveyed owned smartphones.

Singapore is already one of the most advanced nations in Asia, where mobile phones and mobile technology are concerned. The nation of early adopters is often mentioned together with Japan and Korea as those countries in Asia whose citizens use mobile devices the most.

The research, whose full results have not been revealed yet, casts some interesting light on the profile of the Singaporean mobile phone user. Aside from preferring smartphones, Singaporeans are very fond of their gadgets: 90 per cent report owning smartphones, 45 per cent own MP3 players, 38 per cent own tablets and 36 per cent have gaming devices.

Mobile phones are used for far more than just voice communications – small surprise, in a city where smart phones dominate. Nearly all respondents report using their mobile phones to while away time on public transport (96 per cent) – and many also multi-task with their devices, using them while they watch television (60 per cent). The top two mobile activities both trump voice calls: text messaging (86 per cent) and entertainment (73 per cent).

This research is interesting not only because of what it reveals about Singaporeans, but perhaps also because it shows us what the future might look like elsewhere. When the technology matures, and infrastructure catches up so that device use becomes more commonplace, will more consumers be like Singaporeans: comfortable with their devices, preferring to use the gadget in their hands over desktop PCs or other information tools, and engaging in text messaging over voice calls?

Everyone involved in the mobile ecosystem should be keeping an eye on Singapore, as one vision of a digital future. Operators, particularly, are likely to be shaken by Ovum’s research, and would probably need to consider their own revenue streams if mobile data availability and increasing device sophistication erode takings from more traditional services like SMS.

[1] Ovum figures indicate that operators will lose $54bn by 2016 due to smartphone messaging apps, http://ovum.com/press_releases/ovum-figures-indicate-that-operators-will-lose-54bn-by-2016-due-to-smartphone-messaging-apps/

Rohit Dadwal

The author, Rohit Dadwal, is the Managing Director of Mobile Marketing Association APAC.
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