A crowd gathered in Shanghai.
A crowd gathered in Shanghai.


The number of smartphone users in Asia continues to grow exponentially, surpassing all other countries.

There are many strange phobias in the world. Alliumphobia is the fear of garlic, ephebiphobia is the fear of teenagers, and octophobia is the fear of the figure eight. In Asia, there’s nomophobia, which the BBC defines as the fear of being without your mobile phone.

In 2013, almost 60% of the world’s mobile phone users lived in the Asia-Pacific region, according to eMarketer‘s Global Media Intelligence Report. With so many societies so dependent on the constant availability of the mobile web, there’s been plenty of opportunity for nomophobia to take hold.

Growth Spurt

A woman using her phone on a rainy day.

Héctor García/flickr

If those numbers don’t impress you, then perhaps the rate of growth will. Back in 2009, a mere 86.2 million people with smartphones called Asia-Pacific home. Today, that number has grown to well over 1.3 billion, meaning that smartphone usage (some would say dependence) has increased by more than 1,408%!

Similar to the number of users, the rates of market penetration are high as well (for those who aren’t familiar with the concept, Investopedia defines market penetration as product sales viewed in relation to the hypothetical total market for the product).

According to Nielsen, Hong Kong and Singapore boast the highest rates of smartphone penetration at 87%. Following closely behind are Malaysia and China with 80% and 71%, respectively.

Screen Fiends

A pile of devices

Blake Patterson/flickr

The saturation of screens doesn’t stop with a single smartphone. We all have two hands, so why not get a mobile device for each? In Malaysia, almost half of the population (47%) chooses to purchase at least two phones. Not too far behind, 31% of Hong Kong residents and 29% of Singaporeans and Chinese opt for two devices.

The smartphone’s robust younger sibling also receives its fair share of attention. In the past year, tablet ownership spiked across Asia-Pacific markets. Singapore saw a meteoric rise in tablets to nearly 50%, jumping up 30 percentage points from the previous year. In Hong Kong a 27 point climb helped the market reach 57%, and in Malaysia, tablet ownership grew by 23 points to a total of 42%.

Smartphone Culture

Two boys looking at a phone.

Asian Development Bank/flickr

Given the prevalence of devices, it’s no wonder how nomophobia came into existence. If you had a smartphone for each hand, you would also be distraught with nothing to tap, swipe, or stare at. An example of the kind of society where nomophobia can take hold, Japan has even coined the term “keitai culture,” a thriving subculture dedicated to smartphone use.

And smartphone culture will continue to flourish as incoming generations are indoctrinated at a young age. According to Chong Ee-Jay, the manager of the Touch Cyber Wellness Center, mobile devices “…are readily available to very young children here as part of their school curriculum.”

In South Korea, 72% of youths have their own smartphone by ages 11 or 12, and dedicate about 5.4 hours each day to the device.

Apt Timing

The surplus of twitchy thumbs and screen-hungry eyes in Asia make it the perfect market for apps. The large customer base promises a chance at creating an app that spreads like wildfire, and with the mobile app creation tool Infinite Monkeys, it only takes 20 minutes to develop a winner. The drag-and-drop technology is easy to use and effective: time to start building.