Google study: Singapore is world’s top smartphone market per capita

Google released a global study today, conducted by TNS, that found that Singapore is the world’s largest smartphone market per capita, with the devices now outstripping desk top computer use to access the internet.

The announcement:

Today, Google released new research called “the Consumer Barometer” — a large­scale consumer study conducted across 56 countries — that shows that Asia is leading the world in smartphone use and engagement, as well as many other online shopping and viewing behaviours. The research suggests that users in Asia are leapfrogging the “desktop­only” internet to create a new and exciting mobile­first web landscape.

Singapore’s “Mobile First”

Singapore reports the highest smartphone penetration in the world at 85% (this is up from 72% last year).

Smartphones are also far more popular than computers, which are used by a reported 60% of Singaporeans.

Singapore is a mobile-­first nation.

Julian Persaud, Managing Direction Google Southeast Asia commented, “It’s amazing to see Singapore in the global #1 spot. This is a massive wake up call to any business in Singapore without a mobile ­optimised site or app. In 2014, this is no longer a viable approach — you’re effectively slamming your shop door in the face of your customers. 88% of Singaporeans say they experienced problems when accessing websites on their phones, so clearly there’s a lot more work to be done. It’s vital for every business to think mobile­first.”

The same high smartphone adoption is true across the rest of Asia Pacific with two of the top five smartphone nations coming from the region: after Singapore, comes Korea (at 80%, followed by UAE ­ 78%, Saudi Arabia ­ 77% and Sweden ­ 75%). Others in the region are not far behind — many countries are over the 50% adoption mark, and even countries that traditionally have lagged behind have registered significant growth, like Vietnam, at 36%, up 16% from last year. Added to this is the fact that across Asia many countries have higher smartphone adoption than computer adoption — a new trend for 2014. This is true for Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China and Korea. How about the West? The picture is startling: no countries outside Asia are showing this trend.

Not only is adoption in Asia high, but in many countries, especially in Southeast Asia, a high percentage of users report that mobile is the only connected device they own: In Malaysia over a third (35%) of users surveyed said a phone was their only device for going online, and in Vietnam it’s true for almost a quarter (24%).

It’s not just developing countries in Southeast Asia either: Singapore reports 16% and South Korea and Hong Kong are both at 14%. In the Western world this trend is largely a single­digit one (Germany is at 7%, the UK is at 6%).

Online behaviour and attitudes to digital

Singaporeans clearly love their gadgets: nearly 8 out of 10 Singaporeans use 2 or more connected devices — the 4th highest in the world — which underlines the importance of the multi­screen trend. This is a trend that’s picking up the the rest of the region as well, with nearly 3 out 10 in Vietnam and Thailand and more than 3 out of 10 in Malaysia reporting the same.

Shopping in Asia

The survey reveals key trends in online shopping both on smartphones and across all devices:

● Shoppers in Asia conduct research online before purchase: 69% of Singaporeans surveyed said they conducted research online. In Malaysia 8 out of 10 do this, while in Vietnam 75% do the same.

● Shopping on smartphones is even more of an Asian trend: 48% of Singaporeans research products on their smartphones before buying. The numbers in Western Europe are much lower: UK ­ 21%, Germany 20%.

○ Over a third of Singaporeans (35%) used their phones at some stage in the buying process of the last item they bought, this is the one of the highest rates in the world (behind China at 33%) and well ahead of the US at 21%.

The research also highlights the importance of the internet to the travel industry. Flights are the most popular items for Singaporeans to buy online, with almost nine out of ten (89%) Singaporeans saying they had bought a flight online and eight out of ten (83%) booking hotels. In the categories covered by the survey, clothes (43%), cinema tickets (41%) and insurance (40%) were the next most popular categories.

Digital also appears crucial to researching those larger purchases. Over two­thirds of Singaporeans (68%) use the internet to check out which TV to buy and six out of ten (61%) research large home appliances like refrigerators or washing machines. Not only are Asian consumers willing to buy large, expensive items online, they are also increasingly placing their trust in digital technologies: 42% Singaporean users reported using online banking services on their smartphones.

The web is an entertainment destination

In Asia viewers now turn to screens of all sizes to get their entertainment, and sometimes more than one screen at once. 40% of Singaporeans go online while watching TV, and when they do, the vast majority — 83% — of them use a smartphone. And they aren’t just multiscreening, they’re multitasking — 84% of Singaporeans say that when they go online while watching TV, it’s to look for things unrelated to what’s on the box.

The research also highlights the key place that smartphones occupy in our entertainment choices. Over half (53%) of Singaporeans use their mobiles to listen to music, over a third (37%) play online games and almost seven out of ten (68%) Singaporeans watch online video on their phones.

In Singapore the shift to mobile is a trend that cannot be ignored — savvy businesses need to catch up with the consumer to stay relevant in this fast­paced environment.

These are just some of the insights contained in the research, others can be unearthed via the free online tool at

About the research:

The Consumer Barometer delivers global insights on consumers’ online behaviour. Working with TNS, we conducted over 150,000 interviews across 56 countries to provide advertisers, agencies, journalists and academics with up­to­date digital insights.

The new Consumer Barometer 2014 can be found at

Source: press release


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