The better part of the world may trail Asia-Pacific when it comes to the adoption of most 3G services, but even this region has its mobile pioneers - South Korea and Japan. Telecoms consultancy Analysys said both countries boast 3G service penetration rates of more than 40 per cent, more than twice those seen in Europe, and have 'consistently led the world' in the development of innovative mobile technology. In addition, despite the best intentions of mobile operators, average revenue per user (arpu) - a key gauge of industry performance - for data services remains almost universally dominated by SMS. Only in Japan and South Korea have operators managed to generate 'a significant proportion' of total revenue from data services other than text messaging, Analysys said. They're also the nations to beat when it comes to 'contactless' handset payment systems, which allow consumers to purchase goods or services simply by waving their phone over scanners. So what makes the East Asian neighbours so mobile trigger-happy? Analysts and industry representatives ascribe the success of high-end handset applications in South Korea and Japan to a combination of factors that could be difficult to replicate in other markets. Stefan Rust of the Mobile Entertainment Forum Asia said most residents of both countries lived in densely populated 'commuter environments'. They may spend hours shuttling to and from the office, creating a relatively receptive audience for mobile TV and internet services that no doubt provided a welcome distraction. The less than spacious apartments that many people in Seoul and Tokyo call home don't leave much room for bulky computers either, resulting in lower PC penetration rates, and encouraging people to use their phones for computer-like functions. These factors may also explain why Hong Kong and Singapore have relatively developed markets for next-generation mobile services. New York-based ABI Research said in a report on the growth of contactless payment in South Korea and Japan that operators and their partners in these countries hit the ground running. In Japan, mobile payments really took off when they were introduced to the country's rail system and were quickly extended to the businesses surrounding stations with high passenger traffic. Korean and Japanese manufacturers have also introduced integrated solutions into handsets that allow them to be used in a wide variety of ways, from credit cards to identification. The lesson from these countries, said ABI, was to start with 'easy, convenient' transactions that got users comfortable with the mobile payment concept. Funnily enough, the consumers to watch when it comes to mobile application adoption are not in relatively developed places such as Malaysia or Thailand, but in vast, populous, and fast-growing nations such as India and China. Mr Rust said vast stretches of these countries were relatively underserved by traditional internet infrastructure, and handsets were outselling PCs by as much as 10 to one in some areas. This means many subscribers are fast getting used to surfing the web on their mobile phones. Dave Ko, vice-president and general manager of Yahoo Connected Life Asia, said mobiles would 'become the primary internet access device for hundreds of millions of people' over the next few years. Much like Japan or Korea, once consumers are accustomed to using their phones to send e-mails or conduct straightforward transactions, it shouldn't be hard to convince them to trust their mobiles to do even more.