The Finnish phone manufacturer Nokia carefully considers trends in the UAE before it develops devices, according to a senior executive.
The high smartphone penetration and short turnover time in the country makes it a more competitive and indicative market than others. The average phone turnover time in the UAE is eight months, very short compared with the 18 to 24 months in Europe.
"The UAE leads in trendsetting. There is so much innovation," said Seppo Aaltonen, the head of strategy for mobile phones at Nokia. "The consumers have the latest devices and demand good quality. It is the lead market when working with new propositions."
The company, which launched four new mid- to low-range devices at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, has applied the fashion consciousness and demand for innovation seen among UAE customers to its Lumia and Asha ranges.
"We see the US$100 [Dh367] and below smartphone market as the fastest-growing in the industry right now," said Mr Aaltonen. "There is very rapid growth in Mena [Middle East and North Africa] and India, but also there has been take-up in Europe and other developed markets."
Nokia has traditionally performed better with lower-cost devices, but is increasingly facing competition from Chinese manufacturers and South Korea's Samsung, which is also targeting this market. According to figures from IHS iSuppli, Nokia's share of the global mobile phone market decreased from 30 per cent to 24 per cent last year, beaten by Samsung whose shares grew from 24 per cent to 29 per cent.
Nokia's shipments of smartphones decreased from 16 per cent in 2011 to just 5 per cent last year.
"What happens in every industry when you see so much growth opportunities, is you see a lot of players being attracted to it," said Mr Aaltonen. "It is good for consumers and drives innovation."
Shipments for Nokia's Asha touch-screen phone, a mid-range feature phone, reached 16 million in the second half of last year. The device is a top-seller in 25 markets across the world in the feature phone segment, according to Mr Aaltonen.
The new devices launched at the Mobile World Congress, the Lumia 720, Lumia 520, Nokia 105 and Nokia 301 will be available over the next few months in the Middle East.
"The pricing takes the [Lumia] range, and the Windows Phone 8 operating system, into uncharted waters, which can only help drive the platform into new segments and territories to boost volume and market share," said David McQueen, the principal analyst at Informa Telecoms and Media.