Mobile boom in Myanmar

The most popular brand in Yangon is iPhone, but Chinese brands are seeing their popularity rise
The quest for the best mobile phones is endless in Myanmar as consumers are now offered the vast selection of products to choose from as well as better mobile phone services.

In the country where the gross domestic product is among the lowest in the world, at below US$60 billion in 2012, consumers here share the thirst for an iPhone.

According to a recent survey by Mileage Communications Myanmar, iPhone, Samsung, Sony and Vivo are the most popular brands among consumers in Yangon. Meanwhile, the presence of mid-priced Chinese mobile device brands such as Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Kenbo have significantly increased.

Mobile phone users primarily considered purchasing Apple iPhone (12.9 per cent), followed by Samsung (11.7 per cent), Sony (8.8 per cent) and Vivo (7 per cent). Based on the findings, Myanmar’s mobile phone users prefer leading global brands, and Apple iPhone leads the brand preference in this year’s survey.

“These lessons and findings from our survey indicate drastic market changes and paradigm shifts,” said John Jun, the survey firm’s managing director. “These findings will be crucial in alerting and guiding marketers to prepare for new market trends as well as shifts in consumer preference.”

The firm’s second Myanmar Mobile User Behaviour Survey, which was released last Wednesday, queried 250 respondents from April 27-31 in Yangon. It reveals significant market indexes such as brand preferences, variables affecting purchase behaviours, information sources and Internet usage by Myanmar’s mobile phone users.

Key findings

According to the survey, 37.3 per cent of mobile phone users own Huawei devices while Samsung and Sony followed with 20.5 per cent and 11.2 per cent respectively.

“We divided the respondents into six groups – aged less than 19, 20 to 24, 25 to 29, 30 to 34, 35 to 39, and more than 40. The male-female gender ratio is 57.3:42.7 respectively. Notably, user preferences have shown significant differences in accordance with age group and gender,” John Jun said.

In the 25-to-29 age group, Samsung leads the brand preference at 26.3 per cent, of which 28.2 per cent of females prefer Samsung while 26.3 per cent show an inclination towards Huawei.

Also, 23.4 per cent of the surveyed mobile phone users are aware of the Huawei brand with unaided recall, with Samsung following with 18.1 per cent, Sony with 14 per cent and Apple iPhone with 10.5 per cent.

“We found that quality and specification of smartphones significantly affect mobile phone users’ purchasing behaviours (49.7 per cent) while price (27.5 per cent), brand name (20.5 per cent) and design (15.2 per cent) also affect substantially,” John Jun said.

Mobile phone users obtain product information predominantly from the Internet (32.7 per cent), media outlets (29.8 per cent) as well as friends (23.4 per cent), he added. Only 18.1 per cent of users gain information from shop sales staff.

According to the survey, 33.3 per cent of mobile phone users consider the Ks 100,000 to 200,000 price range as affordable while 32.7 per cent of mobile phone users find the 200,000 to 400,000 price tier acceptable. These findings suggest that consumers’ purchasing power has significantly risen as compared to the previous research conducted last year, John Jun said.

The users have shown much interest in the camera specifications (35.1 per cent) while Internet connectivity (19.3 per cent) and applications (7.6 per cent) are also important considerations.

Also, 71.3 per cent of the respondents subscribe to Facebook, while 25.7 per cent use Gmail and 22.8 per cent use Google Talk. In comparison, Twitter is not as popular as Facebook in Myanmar, winning only 10.5 per cent of users. As well, 55.8 per cent of the respondents log onto the Internet on an average 1-2 hours per day while 33.9 per cent use less than an hour a day.

Better services

Boosting demand for mobile phones is the better services as Telenor and Ooredoo started their operations late last year.

Their presence offered new choices to consumers, as Myanma Posts and Telecommunications had monopolised the industry all along.

Before the low cost Ks1,500 SIM cards were launched in April 2013, there were about 4.2 million SIM cards in use throughout the country.

Experts estimated that from April 2013 to April 2015, around 16 million SIM cards were sold.

Of total, Telenor Myanmar which started its operations in September claimed to have sold 3.4 million SIM cards until December. It sold additional 3.1 million in the first three months of this year.

Starting the operations in August, Ooredoo said it had added 3.3 million users in the first three months of 2015. Eighty per cent of its customers use smartphone, it said.

Totally, about 30 million SIM cards from the three operators are in use with more than 50 per cent of people using smartphone. The rate is only expected to increase, as all the three plan to expand service coverage into rural areas while improving services at existing operational areas.

The country of 51 million people only had around one million mobile phone users three years ago but the number has shot up after the telecom liberalisation.

Changing consumer behaviour

A survey by US-based Environsell Thailand last year showed that the expanding middle-income bracket in Myanmar’s three major cities, Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw, means there is great potential for international brands.

Its managing director, Sariporn Jiwanun, said the use of smart phones was another factor driving a change in consumer behaviour.

Environsell projects that the usage rate for mobiles will rise from 72 per cent in 2013 to 97 per cent this year as a result of a decrease in prices for mobile packages and devices. Sariporn said the telecom sector had expanded rapidly following the telecom liberalisation.

As such, consumers had become more tech savvy and were becoming addicted to the Internet and social media, Sariporn said.

Source: Myanmar Eleven

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