Apple's core clientele might have to wait until December to get their hands on the iPhone 4S and its 'Star Trek' voice controls in UAE stores.
Apple iPhone 4 update met with mixed response
DUBAI // Apple fans in the UAE will have to wait to get their hands on the iPhone 4S, the latest version of the smartphone that was launched with all the company's usual hype and hoopla on Tuesday night.
The iPhone 4's latest iteration, which has received a muted response around the world, will be available first in the US and a number of other countries including the UK and Japan on October 14. A second wave of launches will take it to Mexico and across Europe two weeks later.
Only then will Apple begin to send shipments to other territories, though the company said the phone would be available in 70 countries by the end of the year.
No one from Apple's Middle East HQ in Abu Dhabi was available to confirm a launch date for the region.
However Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer of Jacky's Electronics, said: "Typically, Apple releases its products in waves. In the third wave we see countries like Hong Kong and the UAE ... and we're hoping that this happens in time for the festive season towards December via authorised channels, though no confirmed dates have been given just yet."
It is likely that, as with previous launches of products by Apple and other manufacturers, unauthorised or "grey" imports will be available here before the official launch. The iPhone 4 remains on sale on the company's recently launched UAE online store.
There had been widespread speculation that Apple would launch an entirely new device, dubbed the iPhone 5, that would have a sleeker, thinner case and a larger screen to head off the challenge from rival Android smartphones.
Instead the new CEO Tim Cook, taking part in his first product launch since succeeding Steve Jobs, unveiled a model that looks identical to the existing one.
It does, however, have many new or improved features, including a faster chip, an 8-megapixel camera and an innovative voice control system called Siri.
Apple says prices will start at US$199 for the 16-gigabyte model.
The UAE Apple expert Magnus Nystedt said: "I need to try it and understand it to have a verdict on it, but I think if you just look at what's new inside, which is pretty much everything - faster processor, much better camera - it's a very exciting product.
"I'm disappointed that they didn't change the design a little bit, I was looking for a bigger, four-inch screen"
Mr Nystedt, the group editor of Macworld Middle East and the founder of the EmiratesMac.com website, was impressed with the S4's camera.
"Everything about the camera sounds fantastic, it has full HD and a better lens and sounds as if it's going to be better than anything else out there on a smartphone today," he added. "The faster dual-core processor is needed to keep up with the competition.
"The voice control is one of those things it's very hard to think anything much about until you've tried it. When they demo-ed it, it seemed very, very clever - almost Star Trek clever. But you need to use it in real life with your voice."
Mr Panjabi said: "We have a mixed bag because there are several consumers who wanted a new design and who were disappointed with [the] announcements and there were several who just wanted better technology who were satisfied."
Electronics shops near the Creek in Bur Dubai said there had been keen interest in the run-up to the launch.
Mujeed Rahiman, the manager of Mix-Max Trading, said: "A lot of people have been coming in and asking about it, so I think it will sell well."
However Rasheed Navas, of Dreams City Electronics, said: "Everyone expected an iPhone 5 and I think customers will be disappointed, they were expecting more. I think customers will not be satisfied with the 4S because the look is the same."
One customer, Izam Nizm, who has an iPhone 4, said: "I want to buy the 4S, when it's launched here, I will buy it."