Is Asia tiring of the iPhone?

asian apple store

Are iPhone owners going through the Asian version of the 7-year-itch? Once head over heels in love with Apple’s iPhone, many consumers in Singapore and Hong Kong are straying, increasingly adopting Android devices. The iPhone could be a victim of its own success as some Asian Apple fans increasingly turn to Samsung as a way to show they are different from the crowd.

From Hello Kitty to crazy game shows, the West traditionally turns to the East for cutting-edge trends. The latest import could be a wave of anti-iPhone sentiment sweeping the Pacific Rim. One Asian nation has gone from one of the world’s largest iOS markets to a doubling of Android devices. Are we witnessing the beginnings of  ‘iPhone fatigue?’…

The iPhone is “a victim of changing mobile habits and its own runaway success” in Hong Kong and Singapore, Reuters reports Monday.

In the case of Singapore, just 50 percent of that nation’s mobile devices are now powered by iOS – down from 72 in January 2012. Meanwhile, Android devices rose to 43 percent of the market, up from 20 percent since the start of last year.

Elsewhere, in Hong Kong, iOS has slid to 30 percent of the market, down from around 45 percent a year ago. During the same time, Android is used by almost 75 percent of mobile consumers there.

What’s the cause for the iPhone’s eclipse among the wealthy and hip Asian consumer? One possible reason: Apple no longer is the only ‘cool’ technology available.

iPhone 5 launch in China 001

While still seen as a “prestigious brand” one Singapore developer told Reuters “there are just so many cool smartphones out there now that the competition is just much stiffer.”

In both Singapore and Hong Kong, the white earbuds of iPhones are being replaced with Samsung devices – Apple’s chief Android rival. One Singapore app developer said 70 percent of her audience – young college students and graduates in their 20s – already own an Android phone or intend to switch.

Along with developers turning to Android, dollars are also migrating from iOS. Reuters quotes a Hong Kong-based mobile marketer who says Apple retains its premium pricing while Samsung is promoting its alternative.

Apple store (Nanjing East, China, exterior 001)

In Bangkok, another market (who owns a Samsung Galaxy S3) likens iPhones to designer handbags.

“It’s become so commonplace to see people with iPads and iPhones so you lose your cool edge having one”, Narisara Konglua told the news service. At Coca Cola assistant manager in Jakarta echoed the same sentiment, saying the iPhone used to be cool until nearly everyone owned one.

Unlike US iPhone owners, which tend to stay with Apple year after year, mobile users in Hong Kong and Thailand are described as “very fickle” and “not very brand loyal,” tending to follow the latest trend.

apple store china line

Indeed, some credit the explosion of Samsung fans to the growing interest in K-Pop. (Don’t know anything about K-Pop? Talk to your teen or pre-teen for clues.)

But should we dismiss the fashion-fickle young Asian market?

Not totally.

iPad introduction 201004 (Steve Jobs demo 001)

After all, Asia is part of the “emerging market” we so often hear as fueling the future growth for both Apple and Android. In fact, Southeast Asia is a red-hot market. Consumers there increased smartphone spending by 78 percent in 2012 as compared to 2011, Reuters reports.

There are some clues Apple could use in this trend report, however. Foremost, Asian consumers love larger screens both to accomodate Chinese writing, but also to display movies, an increasingly popular use of smartphones.

Another competitive move would be to promote the iPhone in a more price-conscious way. However, some differences between the current Apple and past leadership cannot be changed.

“After Steve Jobs died, it seems the element of surprise in product launches isn’t that great anymore,” remarked a young ad executive based in Hong Kong.

What about you?

Feeling the iPhone fatigue yet?