Commentary

Brazil Does Smartphone Samba

mobile/beach

What comes to mind when you think of Brazil? Soccer? beautiful beaches? Bossa nova? Coffee? Probably not smartphones. As one of the so-called BRIC nations, Brazil is often characterized as an emerging economy poised for big growth. If the widening use of smartphones is any indication, it's on its way to rising prosperity.

Sales of smartphones in Brazil were up 128% in the first half of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009, and up 17% versus the first half of 2008, the period prior to the global recession, according to new findings from Nielsen. The research firm attributes the upswing in sales to price reductions that have made high-end devices more affordable to a wider swath of the population.

"The drop in the average price of smartphones has put them in the hands of more Brazilians, regardless of their income level," said Thiago Moreira, regional product manager of Nielsen's telecom practice in Latin America, in a blog post Tuesday. "In the small but rapidly growing smartphone universe, 15% are owned by consumers in the two lower income levels."

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Smartphones still only make up a minority of overall mobile devices in Brazil -- about 10% compared to an estimated 25% in the U.S. But the growing appetite for phones capable of more than just talking and texting and downward pricing pressure suggest the proportion of smartphones will continue to climb.

Brazilians surveyed by Nielsen said cameras, FM tuners and MP3 players were the features they most wanted in their handsets. Sales of phones featuring cameras increased by one-third in the first half of the year, while those with FM tuners jumped 76%. Sales of phones with MP3 players increased 74%, while GPS-equipped devices went up 52%.

The proliferation of smartphones in Brazil is likely to be a topic of discussion at the Mobile Marketing Association's Latin American forum beginning Thursday in Sao Paulo. Google, Alcatel-Lucent, Johnson & Johnson, Turner Latin America and Giovanni+Draftfcb will be among brands and agencies on hand.

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