How are mobile phone companies trying to capture and please the huge Middle East market?

Nokia, LG and others are leading the way with new innovative mobile phone technology services to capture the huge Islamic customer base. Localization is the mantra. To get started they are making praying easy for the Islamic World.

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By  Maddy Reddy Published  September 11, 2003

The Islamic world and the Middle East would be benefiting more than ever from mobile phone technology. Localization is the mantra for most companies to succeed in the Middle East market.

UclubME.com has just released Azan an innovative mobile phone application for Nokia phones. The Azan application reminds users of prayer times through out the day, based on the Emirate settings specified by the user.

Depending on the Nokia model, Azan (also the five day prayers) could either be voice or tone in Arabic or English. Followers of Islam can now pray at ease whether or not they are in hearing distance of a mosque.

Cellucom a leading distributor of Nokia and other phones in UAE, India and East Africa is the company behind Uclub. It's currently charging AED 15.00 as a special launch price for a limited period. Plans to extend 'Azan' to other Gulf States and Muslim-majority countries around the world in the next few months are underway.

Meanwhile this week, the South Korean chaebol, LG Electronics has unveiled its new LG-G5300 Qiblah phone, which comes with an inbuilt compass and location-tracking software to show the direction of Mecca. It can also be used as a navigational tool for travelers. The handset is equipped to identify the direction of Makkah Al Mukkaramah and alerts Islam followers by prayer calls.

Commenting on the new handset, LG spokesman Kim Kyong-Hwan said, “LG-G5300 can be used worldwide and uses Global Positioning System (GPS) technology. The new product targets the Islamic world and lets Muslims pray towards Mecca in any place”.

Priced at $250, LG is aggressively expanding its marketing operations and pushing the product in Arab countries in the Middle East and to Muslim customers in Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Brunei.

Malaysia’s OTC Digital Mapping Services is entering the Middle-East. V-Guard is a vehicle tracking and monitoring system, which uses GPS and global service mobile technology. It helps drivers reach their destination and alerts mobile phones or laptop if a car is hijacked, towed away or speeding. It shouldn’t be hard for OTC to customize this technology for the mobile phone companies to offer prayer services like Uclub.

Mughamrat a software development company with its Arabic SMS Pro and MAAL (Mobile Advanced Arabic Layer) is helping mobile phone companies developing a whole range of services for the Middle-east market.

Why are mobile companies trying hard to please the Middle-East market? Simple. The market is huge and extremely lucrative.

Madar Research pegs the mobile phone subscription base in the Arab world at 35 million this year, outnumbering fixed phone lines, which are estimated at 20 million. By 2005 the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region mobile user base will touch 60 million with a yearly increase of 13-15 million users. Worldwide, IDC predicts that over 1.4 billion people worldwide will be using mobile phones by end of 2004 with 3G pushing sales.

According to Etisilat the state-owned telecommunications company in the Emirates over 75% of the population are estimated to own a mobile phone, which translates to over 2.7 million people in the UAE alone with over 100,000 registered MMS users in the Gulf.

Mobile players see the mobile phone usage boom in the Middle-East region as a cash cow. Combining technology and Islam with multimedia content (like prayers, news, stocks etc) makes perfect business sense. Time will tell, if their market prayers are answered.

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