SmarTone places its bets on smartphones

Fiona Chau
27 Nov 2009

With Android and iPhone driving huge growth in takeup and data traffic on its network, SmarTone-Vodafone said it’s allocating more resources to boost the customer experience for smartphone users.

CEO Douglas Li said the Hong Kong-based operator has seen smartphone users increase by 70% since last year, of which 25% are using either Android-based handsets or the iPhone.

He expects the company will increase handset subsidies for smartphones.

Li did not reveal the number of smartphone customers, but said Android users had grown more that 50% a month in the past three months.

According to Li, Android and iPhone users were highly active and engaged in data usage, consuming data five times that of Windows phone users and 10 times that of other smartphone users.

While user behaviour of Android and iPhone devices is similar, Android users downloaded an average number of 18 apps per month, compared to 10 apps by iPhone users, SmarTone-Vodafone said.

To support Android users, the company on Thursday launched a web-based Apps Select guide exclusively for its customers, which provides information and recommendations for applications on Android Market that better meet the needs of Hong Kong users.

It has also developed new apps and widgets for Android phone, providing news, weather and multimedia content, and will run workshops every month to educate customers about their smartphones.

SmarTone is now offering four Android handsets - three from HTC and one from Samsung, ranging from HK$2,100 ($270) to HK$4,000.

Asked if Android will overtake iPhone as the dominant OS for smartphones, Li said “It’s hard to say. We are [OS] agnostic and our objective is to provide the best network for the smartphone users.”

A report from research firm GFK revealed that smartphones sales in Hong Kong have increased from 23,000 in 2007 to 80,000 in 2009, with market share growing from 6% in 2007 to 21.7% in 2009.

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