Most GCC residents buy a new mobile or smartphone about every 18 months, but Kuwaitis are likely to replace theirs the most often, a new survey shows.
Almost one third of Kuwait residents say they purchase a new mobile device once a year, outpacing those in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, according to data from a YouGovSiraj survey in the region commissioned by the BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM).
Of those surveyed who do not already use a smartphone, such as a BlackBerry or iPhone, more than half plan to splash out on one within the next year.
This has been driven by consumers increasingly using their phones for more than just calls - including GPS navigation, surfing the web, and accessing social networking applications, said Mike al Mefleh, the product manager of RIM in the Middle East.
"In this market, growing sales have signalled a continuous demand by consumers to use their smartphones for personal and business purposes, as well as accessing more applications that include popular social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook," he said.
Mobile phones have been a steady seller in the UAE, with sales in the first three quarters of last year up 5 per cent compared with the same period in 2009, the latest data from GfK Retail and Technology shows.
But smartphones have been flying off the shelves with sales in the third quarter of last year up 48 per cent compared with the same period in 2009, GfK said.
Worldwide, mobile device sales to end users reached 1.6 billion units last year, a 31.8 per cent increase on 2009.
Smartphone sales globally were up 72.1 per cent from 2009 and accounted for 19 per cent of total mobile communications device sales last year. This growth in smartphones is in part due to the popularity of mobile applications.
Worldwide mobile application downloads are forecast to reach 17.7 billion this year, a 117 per cent increase on last year, according to Gartner.
This is expected to generate US$15.1 billion (Dh55.46bn) in revenue this year, up 190 per cent.
RIM and YouGovSiraj's mobile market survey, conducted late last year in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, also shed light on where consumers buy their smartphones. Of the UAE residents surveyed, the largest proportion, at 18 per cent, purchased their phones at Axiom Telecom's shops. This was followed by Etisalat, at 16 per cent, and Sharaf DG electronics stores, with 13 per cent.
In Saudi Arabia, Al-Haddad Telecom was the top shop for mobiles, at 19 per cent, and Axiom came in second with 15 per cent.
In Kuwait, Alghanim was overwhelmingly the most popular choice with 40 per cent of those surveyed buying their mobiles there. Eureka outlets were second choice, at 13 per cent.
Residents in Qatar, however, were most likely to steer away from the big retail outlets. About 36 per cent bought their phones at "other stores".The second choice for Qataris was Carrefour, with 21 per cent of those surveyed saying they bought their mobiles there.
While most respondents bought their smartphones in their home country, about 13 per purchased their devices abroad.
About 4 per cent went shopping in another GCC country, while 3 per cent purchased their smartphones in the US. Asia and Europe were both shopping destinations for 2 per cent of respondents.