Thailand's smartphone market is set to surge by 70% in volume this year as Thailand migrates from second- to third-generation mobile broadband service, says the global research firm GfK.
Thailand is the third-largest smartphone market in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia and the Philippines.
Sales of smartphones in Thailand in the first four months of this year reached 2.87 million units, fuelled mainly by strong sales in the fast-growing northeastern provinces.
Sunthat Laicharoen, the senior analyst for telecommunications at GfK Retail and Technology (Thailand), said the country's mobile market is projected to grow by 3-4% to between 18.5 and 20 million units this year.
Smartphones are expected to account for half of overall sales this year, up from 42% last year and 20% in 2011.
Sales of the devices will finally surpass those of feature phones for the first time this year, he said.
Smartphone sales in Thailand reached US$800 million in value last year.
Mr Sunthat said phonelets, a new generation of smartphone that is larger than a phone but smaller than a tablet, are set to become the next big growth segment.
Smartphone prices will become more affordable, ranging from 15,000 to 20,000 baht thanks to more offerings from handset makers, he said.
Mr Sunthat added that mobile operators are gearing up to launch their own house-brand handsets.
In the first half, Google's Android mobile operating system (OS) still dominated the Thai market with a 70% share, followed by Apple's iOS with 12%.
Nokia's S40 OS and Microsoft's Windows phones had an 8.5% market share each.
BlackBerry OS held only a 1% market share, a sharp decline from 15% in the same period last year, as Windows and Nokia provided fierce competition.
An industry source said Thailand will no longer be a market focus for BlackBerry despite the country being the second-largest Southeast Asian market for the Canadian handset maker.