A recent global survey conducted online by The Nielsen Company has found almost half of Southeast Asian consumers wanting to buy smartphones this year.

The total number of survey respondents who said they already owned smartphones jumped from last year’s 21% to 24% in this year’s round of the Nielsen survey. The biggest slice of smartphone owners comes from Singapore (46% of total respondents from Singapore). Meanwhile, Thailand and Malaysia showed a steep growth of smartphone users–47% and 35%, respectively–according to the Nielsen report.

Indonesians who do not yet own smartphones are the most likely to buy one during the year, with 51% of Indonesian survey respondents saying they will definitely or probably buy one this year. Almost half of the Thai and Vietnamese respondents, too, said they might buy smartphones in 2011.

Source: The Nielsen Company

The Nielsen survey also found out that half of the respondents intending to buy smartphones in 2011 come from the male population, aged between 25 and 34 years. A very young population, it seems.

The same survey also reports that SMS text messaging remains the favorite in mobile phone use, with 92% of the survey participants saying they have texted at least once within the past month. Internet access through mobile phone went up to second place (50% of respondents) on the list of top mobile phone use scenarios. Nielsen expects the number to grow further, as 62% of survey respondents said they intend to use their phones to access the Internet in the next 12 months. Email, games, and instant messaging are still sticking around on the list of top 5 primary uses of mobile phones.

What did the Nielsen report say about the smartphone OS war in Southeast Asia? Nokia OS (58%) takes the lead, being the chief preference among Indonesians, Vietnamese, Thais, Malaysians, and Filipinos). Apple’s OS (37%) follows at second place and is the favorite among Singaporeans. Twenty percent of the respondents prefer BlackBerry, while 18% prefer Microsoft. Android trails at last place in the race, with only 16% of the respondents preferring it.

Android smartphone sales, however, grew exponentially by 77% in the first quarter of 2011, according to GfK Asia.

Gerard Tan, GfK Asia’s regional account director for telecommunications, attributes the growth to major manufacturers’ adoption of the Android platform and the strong appeal of Android smartphones to consumers. Tan points to Android smartphones’ friendly user interface and long list of apps as two attractions that draw consumers to Android. More than 800,000 smartphone units were sold in Southeast Asia during 2011’s first quarter.

GfK also reported a 216% leap in 2010 smartphone sales in the Asia Pacific region. From total sales of 31 million smartphone units in 2009, 67 million units were sold last year. GfK projects the number to grow further by 60% (106 million) by year end.

Will Android finally overtake Nokia and Apple in the Southeast Asian market this year? That remains to be seen as the year continues to unfurl.