x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UAE makes BlackBerry its pick

BlackBerry is the most-used smartphone brand in the UAE, a Massive Media report finds.

In the UAE, 96 per cent of BlackBerry owners use the BlackBerry Messenger service. AFP
In the UAE, 96 per cent of BlackBerry owners use the BlackBerry Messenger service. AFP

When it comes to pushing digits on a smartphone, the BlackBerry is the most frequently used brand in the UAE.

A survey released exclusively to The National shows that handsets from Research In Motion (RIM) captured more than half of all votes in a poll of more than 2,600 individuals from the Middle East and North Africa (Mena).

Nokia's handsets were the second-most used in the UAE, with 24 per cent of the votes, according to Massive Media, an online media group behind sites such as Netlog, Gatcha and other ventures.

While 51 per cent of respondents from the UAE said they most regularly called up contacts on a BlackBerry, only 25 per cent reported doing so across the wider Mena region.

"When we think about the UAE, we think of an ultra-modern society - but we didn't think [the results] would be this drastic," says Amir-Esmaeil Bozorgzadeh, a special-projects manager for Massive Media, which conducted the survey.

RIM says its devices have been selling well not only in the Emirates but in the broader region. "We continue to enjoy growth [and] are focused on the whole Mena market," says Mike Al Mefleh, RIM's director of product management in the Middle East.

One tactic the company is employing to tighten its hold on the regional market involves boosting the number of mobile applications in App World, its online store.

"We are engaging locally to develop applications relevant to the market with local content as well as local languages that people would expect to have," Mr Al Mefleh says.

RIM's gadgets have also benefited from its popular messaging service, more commonly known as BBM, which allows subscribers to send each other text messages without additional cost above a monthly data plan.

In the UAE, 96 per cent of BlackBerry owners use the BBM servicecompared with 70 per cent globally, according to RIM.

Nokia, which has been eclipsed by Apple in terms of global smartphone shipments, is still more popular than Apple in this part of the world. It was the second-most used mobile phone brand in the UAE, and came in top in the broader Mena region.

The company is now promoting its new N9 smartphone, which is expected to be released in the Emirates this year.

"I am very excited about the external feedback we are receiving regarding N9," says Tom Farrell, the general manager for Nokia in the lower Gulf region.

"I think it sends a strong message about Nokia and its new challenger mindset, strategy and direction." The company may also benefit from a new partnership with Microsoft, which will provide its operating system on Nokia phones.

Apple's iPhone was the third-most used mobile in the Emirates, as well as the Mena region overall, easily beating other big brands such as Samsung and Sony Ericsson.

However, some individual retailers say the iPhone is their best-selling mobile.

On the retail website Souq.com, for instance, the iPhone 4 has helped to drive sales of Apple's handsets to the top position, followed by BlackBerry models, then devices from Nokia. That same ranking of brands can be found on the local consumer electronics site EmiratesAvenue.com.

"With the introduction of the white iPhone 4 recently, sales went up again on the iPhone 4," says Julien Pascual, the chief executive of EmiratesAvenue.com.

But Mr Pascual says the BlackBerry may ultimately sell more overall thanks to robust sales in retail stores from companies that purchase the devices on behalf of their employees.

nparmar@thenational.ae