x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Smartphone surge in UAE leaves retailers sold out of most popular handsets

Having two phones is 'becoming the norm here' and both are smartphones, while BlackBerry users have been shifting to different devices after BBM become available on iPhone and Android.

A customer views an Apple iPhone 5C. Craig Warga / Bloomberg
A customer views an Apple iPhone 5C. Craig Warga / Bloomberg

Sales of smartphones surged over the festive period with some stores selling out of popular handsets as smart devices became the gift of choice for young people.

Apple’s iPhone 5S and Samsung’s Galaxy S4 were the best-selling handsets for many UAE retailers.

“We close to doubled smartphone sales. Generally sales towards the end of the year rise, but the category has doubled for us this year,” said Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer at Jacky’s Electronics. “A couple of things are driving this: having two phones is becoming the norm here and both of them are smartphones now and generally from October to December it is the gift-giving period, there is Diwali, Eid and Christmas.”

BlackBerry users have also been shifting to different devices now that BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is available on iPhone and Android phones.

The sector’s momentum is expected to follow through in 2014 with the Dubai Shopping Festival (January 2-February 2) offering deals that will further drive sales.

Jumbo Electronics saw overall smartphone sales increase by almost 20 per cent compared to the same period last year.

“Smartphones are the driver category of the consumer electronics business at the moment. Sales have spiked compared to last year. The iPhone 5S was by far the most popular phone this season, especially the gold colour,” said Nadeem Khanzadah, the head of retail at Jumbo Electronics.

For Plug-Ins, smartphone sales were up 33 per cent.

“There wasn’t a lot of hard-selling. Customers know what they want and come in-store to buy. It’s always about availability which puts pressure on us to remain consistent with the supply chain,” said Sean Connor, the general manager at Plug-Ins. “Apple has grown in sales by 63 per cent driven mostly by the iPhone 5S. Nokia grew by 49 per cent and Samsung by 48 per cent.”

Lenovo and Huawei phones, which both use the Android operating system, posted higher sales and are set to be ones to watch in 2014.

Google’s Android phones now account for 80 per cent of the smartphone market across the Middle East according to the US-based research house IDC. Nokia’s Lumia Windows phones are also getting some traction in the Middle East with 8 per cent of the market share since the company launched cheaper versions of its flagship handset.

Apple and BlackBerry each held 6.9 per cent of the market share in the third quarter of 2013.

“It’s no surprise that Android has continued to grow its market presence in the Middle East. The platform is supported by several key manufacturers, including Samsung, LG, Lenovo, Sony and HTC, positioning the operating system as the number one player in the smartphone market,” said Simon Baker, the regional manager for mobile phones at IDC.

“We are now seeing Chinese manufacturers and [others] producing cheaper and stylish Android models to the market, which suggests its share will grow further in price conscious markets in the region.”