x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Shops prune BlackBerry prices

Deals hoped to woo customers opting for other phones as suspension of service in the UAE and elsewhere in the region looms.

The UAE said it would suspend BlackBerry Messenger, email and Web browser services from October 11.
The UAE said it would suspend BlackBerry Messenger, email and Web browser services from October 11.

Retailers are cutting the prices of BlackBerrys as customers opt for other smartphones after the UAE said it would suspend services for the device. The cost of a BlackBerry at mobile phone shops in Abu Dhabi and Dubai has dropped by as much as 15 per cent since the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority announced on Sunday certain BlackBerry services would be suspended from October 11.

"Before the announcement we used to sell more than 10 BlackBerrys a day but now we are lucky if we sell one or two," said Isam Ayash, the manager of Al Asala Mobile Phones. "So we had to reduce the price." Sales of iPhones and other smartphones have surged, while more customers try to sell retailers their used BlackBerrys before the suspension. Ajaz Rahman, a salesman and technician at Jumeirah Gate Phones in Dubai, said his shop had seen a string of people coming in to sell their used BlackBerrys.

"Every day, about seven or eight people come in to sell their BlackBerrys," Mr Rahman said. "Before, it was not that much. Everyone was looking to buy a BlackBerry." Even with the services suspension, the devices are still a bargain, as they can be used for internet and downloadable web-based e-mail programs. BlackBerrys can also be bought by tourists intending to use the devices elsewhere. On Sunday, the TRA announced the world's first suspension of BlackBerry services, citing security concerns.

Encrypted BlackBerry messages are sent through servers in Canada and the UK controlled by Research In Motion, the maker of the popular smartphone, making it impossible for government authorities outside those countries to see the contents of those messages. Saudi Arabia has also weighed in, ordering the kingdom's network operators to block BlackBerry services from tomorrow, the Saudi Press Agency reports.

The Saudi regulator said it would affect only the popular BlackBerry Messenger. Meanwhile, Etisalat and du have told retailers to stop activating new BlackBerrys, which represented as much as 60 per cent of the smartphone market in the UAE. Smartphones are one of the fastest-growing consumer electronics categories in the country. In the first quarter of this year, sales of telecoms equipment rose 30.6 per cent to Dh976 million (US$265.7m), driven mainly by smartphones, according to the market research company GfK Retail and Technology. Demand for smartphones in the first quarter grew by 47 per cent compared with the previous quarter, GfK said.

Since the announcement, vendors say people are turning to other smartphones, particularly iPhones, leading a number of shops in the area to run out of stock. "After the news no one was buying a BlackBerry," said Jevee Gonzaga, a salesman at Gate City Mobile Phones. "But we had a full stock of iPhones and they bought them all in one day." A BlackBerry 9700 at Gate City used to cost Dh1,950, but was reduced to Dh1,800 this week, Mr Gonzaga said.

Akhil Somarajan, a salesman and technician at Khaled Jamshidy Phones in Dubai, said the company's prices for new BlackBerrys have stayed the same but used ones have been reduced from about Dh800 to Dh650. Mr Somarajan estimated that sales have dipped by 20 per cent. "They are waiting to see what happens," he said. @Email:aligaya@thenational.ae