Malaysian, Thai youth use wider range of services and apps
81% use chat apps for daily communication
YOUNG mobile Internet users in Thailand and Malaysia have rapidly adopted new mobile Internet services and rely on their mobile phones for an unexpectedly wide variety of connectivity needs, according to a new study by Telenor Group’s research arm, Telenor Research.
These patterns also reveal the massive business development potential South-East Asia has in the mobile communications technology arena.
The Telenor Group-TNS study was carried out on a sample of more than 2,600 people in Malaysia, Thailand, Sweden and Norway aged 16-35 years old who use Internet on their phones – a demographic Telenor identifies as ‘digital frontrunners.’
In the technology and communication industry, this group is seen as a bellwether, according to the company. The trends and technology they embrace can often be used to predict what will become popular in the wider community in their countries.
While Scandinavia’s mobile market is already highly advanced in every demographic and consumes more overall data, this particular subset of users in Malaysia and Thailand is revealing itself to be more mobile Internet-oriented than their Swedish and Norwegian peers – using more communication platforms.
Sigve Brekke, Telenor Group’s executive vice president and head of Asia Operations noted that the progress the company is seeing in the adoption of the latest mobile apps and services among youth in its South-East Asian markets is rapid.
“Our digital frontrunners in Malaysia and Thailand are now some of the most tech- and mobile-savvy young people in the world,” he added.
“This indicates to us that the opportunities for sustained growth in the mobile technology space in these markets may be bigger than we expected,” he said.
Mobile Internet a staple for Malaysian and Thai digital frontrunners
Despite the fact that Malaysia and Thailand’s Information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure is not as mature as that of Norway or Sweden, both markets demonstrated, by large margins, more openness to new technology and internet services.
Notable findings from the study include:
81% of Malaysians and Thais use chat apps for daily communication, as opposed to 44% of Swedish and 57% of Norwegian respondents.
Well-known apps like Whatsapp, LINE or WeChat differ in popularity across the four markets, while the only app equally popular in all of the countries is Facebook Chat. Whatsapp and WeChat are top chat apps among Malaysia’s digital frontrunners while their Thai counterparts flock to Line and Facebook Messenger. Thailand is LINE’s second largest global market.
SMS services remain vastly popular in Malaysia, Sweden and Norway with approximately 70% of respondents sending them daily. In Thailand, on the other hand, only 31% of respondents use SMS at least once a day, partly due to the popularity of internet-based chat apps like LINE or Whatsapp.
The use of messaging applications grew the fastest in Sweden. All other Internet-enabled communications, including Internet voice, video calls, Internet chat and social media postings rose in the past year and a half in Sweden.
Brekke (pic) said the flexibility that Malaysians and Thais show in leveraging and using mobile Internet is very impressive and surpasses even Scandinavia.
“It signifies the importance mobile Internet plays in their daily lives,” he added.
While Telenor continues it’s plans to to provide millions of low-income people in rural areas of South Asia and South-East Asia with affordable ‘Internet for All’ services, Brekke said the company is also keeping its fingers on the pulse of the technologically savvy youth in its Asia markets because they show what products and services will be widely desired in the short- and mid-term.
“Understanding their habits also helps us to identify where new technology ecosystems may emerge in their markets,” he added.
Scandinavian and South-East Asian social media patterns worlds apart
Social media usage on mobile devices is vastly different between the studied South-East Asian and Scandinavian markets.
The most active country on social media is Thailand with 72% of those studied posting on social media through their devices daily, followed by 58% in Malaysia, 30% in Sweden and only 11% in Norway.
Voice, email and video habits varied
Voice calls are still widely used in both regions, with 84% of Thais, 73% of Malaysians, 63% of Swedes and 67% of Norwegians making at least one phone call during the day.
Fifty percent of Thais and Malaysians exchange emails via mobile data compared to 31% of Swedes and 21%of Norwegians.
As for video calls, more than 30% of Malaysians and Thais use the service, while only 14%of Swedes and 4% of Norwegians do the same.
Outperformance and a common denominator
The study concluded that across the range of mobile communications functions, Malaysian and Thai digital frontrunners out-use their Scandinavian counterparts in every category because they choose to communicate across a range of various platforms – apps, social media, voice.
While those surveyed in Malaysia and Thailand use a wider range of services and applications than their Scandinavian peers, those surveyed in Sweden and Norway download and use significantly more data.
Head Researcher in Telenor Group’s Competition division Ole Christian Wasenden noted that what unites the four markets is that their digital frontrunners increasingly demand video and data-rich media.
“Personal attitudes towards socializing and having fun online are the main common drivers of mobile Internet network use, known in the industry as ‘mobile Voice-over-IP’ (mVoIP).
“For messaging apps, group communication and efficiency are additional key-features driving popularity,” he added.
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