Technology | Media | Telecommunications

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Asia-Pacific Social Net Users Going Mobile

Social Network Site (SNS) users in the Asia-Pacific region indicate that mobile is now the best way to access their network, potentially overtaking PCs as the device of choice, according to the latest market study by IDC.

In countries such as China, India, Korea, and Thailand, over 50 percent of the users interviewed have now made accessing SNSs via the mobile phone a weekly habit.

This is particularly widespread in the China and Thailand markets, where 62 and 65 percent of respective users regularly obtain news alerts and notifications, receive and reply to messages, upload photos, or update personal status and profiles on popular SNSs via mobile phone browsers.

By contrast, Australia and Singapore see the lowest percentage of users who access mobile versions of SNSs, where only 19 and 25 percent of respective users login weekly via their mobile browsers.

"The prevalence of owning a cellular phone over a PC in China, India and Thailand has directly boosted the popularity of mobile SNS access," said Debbie Swee, Market Analyst at IDC. "In Korea, however, there is strong usage for a different reason -- the market is technologically advanced and has already seen mass adoption of mobile Internet as compared with all other countries surveyed in the study."

As for Australia and Singapore, despite also being technologically advanced markets, the overwhelming importance of the PC over mobile has created strong inertia against adopting regular mobile access of SNSs.

Mobile operator pricing strategies are possibly keeping many non-users away from mobile social networking. The majority of users who have never logged in to SNSs through mobile phones before have cited the hefty data tariffs as the main obstacle. These service fees can be in the form of mobile Internet, SMS or MMS access.

SNS users have, however, asserted that more are likely to try out mobile versions of SNS if telcos offer more affordable data rates. The availability of user-friendly mobile applications is also perceived as a notable area of improvement -- albeit to a lesser extent.

The survey findings thus show that mobile phones and mobile Internet hold the promise of changing the SNS landscape in the Asia-Pacific region. Particularly in markets where PC penetration is relatively low, mobile phones have the potential to eventually overtake the PC as a preferred way of accessing SNSs.

For mobile operators in China, India and Thailand, IDC believes a low flat-rate Internet access fee would complement and increase mobile SNS adoption. However, in Australia, Korea and Singapore where data tariffs are already relatively low, operators need to correct users’ misconceptions of pricey data plans through advertising and other marketing efforts.

Failing to do so could mean that mobile Internet applications and services, not just mobile SNSs, will take longer to truly take off.