Market Data

State of Mobile 2023: Southeast Asia (SEA)

Randy Nelson

Southeast Asia’s consumers were among the world’s most enthusiastic mobile app users in 2022, by both time spent and new downloads. Let’s take a deeper dive into the data.

Indonesians Lead the World in Their Commitment to a Mobile Lifestyle

Analysis by shows that mobile users in five regions (Indonesia, Singapore, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Korea) now commit to more than five hours per day on mobile. That's up from just two hours per day in 2022.

Indonesia tops the charts in hours per day spent on mobile, spending a whopping 5.7 hours a day in their apps. Which is particularly remarkable considering the comparative number for pre-lockdown (2019) was just 3.9 hours.

In fourth place is Singapore. Its mobile users spent on average 5.3 hours a day in apps – up 62% from its 2019 pre-pandemic total of 3.3 hours.  

Other high-performing South Asian markets by this measure are India and Thailand at 4.9 hours and 4.7 hours, respectively. Between them, their presence ensures that the region has four countries in the time-spent top 10.

India is the World’s #2 for Downloads, but Pakistan Stands Out with a 35% YoY Spike

Global downloads grew 11% year-over-year in 2022, and the consumers of Southeast Asia are extremely well-represented by this measure. In fact, seven of the countries in the top 15 are from this region, which includes: India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Philippines, Bangladesh and Thailand.

India sits behind only China in the rankings, with its mobile users downloading approximately 29 billion apps in 2022 (up from 26.7 billion in 2021). However, neighboring Pakistan is the most impressive performer in the list, now the ninth largest market in the world by downloads. This is thanks to stand out YoY growth of 35% from 2.6 billion in 2021 to 3.5 billion downloads in 2022.

Only Thailand Features in the World’s Top 20 for Consumer Spending

Southeast Asia is home to some of the world's fastest developing economies. But note the active word here: developing. These markets have yet to achieve the income levels and digital payment capabilities of their counterparts in Europe and the Americas. As a result, they sit well outside the top 20 in terms of consumer spend on apps … the exception, however, is Thailand.

In 2022, Thailand was the world's fifteen most valuable market in terms of consumer spend on mobile apps. Its total fell only slightly – from $1.039 billion in 2021 to $1.086 million in 2022. But this decline was in line with the global market, which posted a $167 billion total – 2% down in 2021 – possibly due to inflation and other challenging economic headwinds.

Key SEA App Categories by Spend and Downloads

We see major local differences among regions when we look into the performance of different app categories (retail, gaming, social, etc.).  Let’s start with India's app growth in 2022, for example. Way out in front is shopping/e-commerce (B2C) as thecategory attracted 318 million more downloads in 2022 than the year earlier. 

That’s a very impressive lift …  but remember that India has been extremely aggressive in migrating from cash to digital payments. And because of that, India is  home to a number of thriving domestic e-commerce platforms such as Meesho, GlowRoad, Dealshare and Shop101, ultimately contributing to the boom in shopping app growth. 

By contrast, Indonesia’s leading app category was finance and loans. Banking apps accounted for 71.9 million more downloads YoY. Mobile finance products thrive in Indonesia thanks to home-grown efforts such as DANA – a digital wallet. The product popularized cardless payments, offline purchases, mobile top ups and bill payments to the region. 

Also, we could not brush over personal loans in Indonesia. This was the fastest growing sub-category within Finance, which raised its collective downloads to nearly 170 million in 2022. 

In terms of consumer spend, South Asian markets mostly reflected global trends. Entertainment/short videos and entertainment/OTT dominated in most regions, with Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand  conforming to this pattern. 

There was an exception, however … and that was India. In India, the #1 category in consumer spend was social media/dating, which added animpressive $31million in spend in 2022. India’s dating market grew significantly during lockdown, in addition to being home to some agile home grown products such as Aisle and Truly Madly. All of which may be fueling this expansion in social media/dating.

To give a sense of how impressive that is, compare the social media/dating category to India’s  second-highest category  – utility and productivity – which added just $7.2 million in spend in 2022.

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March 16, 2023

Market Data

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