SEOUL - A series of reports by international market research institutes showed that the Korean mobile device market is nearing saturation and is consequently in need of finding new growth momentum.
"Seoul will be the first saturated device market," said Flurry, a leading research institute based in San Francisco, on Monday after a study on smartphones and phablets in August. "Growth in the number of activated mobile devices in Korea appeared to be slowing down as it reaches saturation."
Phablets are a cross between a phone and a tablet PC.
The growth rate of the Korean market for connected devices last year was at a mere 17 per cent, much lower than the world's average growth rate of 81 per cent.
"The pace in Korea has slowed markedly in the past year or so, and has even been negative in some months," Flurry said.
The organisation pointed out some of the key characteristics of the Korean market, which had the highest level of dominance by domestic products and showed the highest preference for phablets.
As of August 2013, 85 per cent of devices owned in Korea were manufactured by domestic firms, such as Samsung, LG and Pantech, according to Flurry.
Samsung accounted for a 60 per cent market share.
In a worldwide sample of 97,963 devices running on the iOS and Android operating systems, only 7 per cent were phablets, but for South Korea that percentage was 41 per cent, the report said.
The institute said that the Korean market would provide a good early indicator of what other markets can expect at the end of the rapid growth period the mobile market.
A market watcher said, "Domestic smart-device makers may have to find ways to weather the nearing market saturation by developing new types of gadgets and taking aggressive global marketing measures."
The results of the report are in line with those of Strategy Analytics, a market research organisation.
SA predicted the sales of smartphones this year to fall to 26.3 million units, down 14 per cent from 30.7 million sold last year.
Korea's smartphone market will likely post negative growth this year, and not recover last year's sales level for at least the next six years, SA said.