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Arabic vs English in apps

Majority of native Arabic speakers prefer to use apps in English, according to AppsArabia research report

Arabic vs English in apps
Dan Healy, CEO of market research firm Real Opinions, David Ashford, general manager of AppsArabia and Mike Al Mefleh, director of product management at Research in Motion, were in Dubai to dicuss the development of apps in the MENA region.

The majority of native Arabic speakers prefer to download and use apps in English rather than Arabic, according to a report published by AppsArabia and Dubai-based market research firm, Real Opinions, and sponsored by Research In Motion.

The study, called AppsArabia Mobile Report - MENA Wave 1, polled approximately 3,000 apps users , 23% of whom were English-speakers and 77% of whom were Arabic-speakers.

Dan Healy, CEO of Real Opinions said that one of the reasons for Arabic users utilising apps in English is because early adopters of technology usually have a disposable income and may be more likely to speak English

"It is the white collar workers or youth that are the early adopters. The number of this sector who speak English is probably quite high, but as the market develops and matures, it is probably more likely to get into those areas where people speak Arabic only," he said.

One of the problems with using apps in Arabic on smartphones is that the text can be hard to read in the Arabic script.

"Speaking to people who use apps in Arabic, they say it is actually quite difficult to read Arabic on a very small screen. So some people prefer apps in English from a functionality point of view. It is going to be a challenge for developers - when there are a high number of Arabic speakers - to still have that functionality to read the Arabic language," said Healy.

David Ashford, general manager of local investment fund driving the MENA apps industry, AppsArabia, said that another reason Arabic users are being forced to use apps in English is a lack of availability of apps in Arabic.

He also said that the smartphone operating system could play a role in making Arabic users use apps in English.

"Every Arabic user with an iPhone that I have spoken to has it set to English, maybe this is because apps are so common on that platform. You meet people with BlackBerry devices and native Arabic speakers tend to use Arabic a bit more on the BlackBerry, which is a kind of strength of BlackBerry," said Ashford.

Ashford added that more apps are currently being built on the BlackBerry platform, aimed at Arabic users, which he says with help boost BlackBerry's popularity further amongst Arabic users.

When AppsArabia invests in and develops an application, it makes sure the app can be used in both languages.

"When we invest in an app, we make them dual-language, so we give people a choice. We try and separate the phone language from the app language, so if your phone is set to Arabic, you can still set the app to English if you want and vice versa," said Ashford.

Research In Motion's director of Product Management, Middle east, Mike Al Mefleh - said that the research has helped RIM understand exactly what consumers in the local market wants from their apps.

"Part of the research has helped us understand customers and users in this market and one of the things they want is Arabic apps that relate to the religion and the culture. So as a result of that we are developing some local applications and have partnered with some related apps for this market," he said.

AppsArabia is currently finalising a deal with RIM for an app running on the BlackBerry platform for a high profile brand. Ashford would not elaborate further on what the app might be.

RIM is also planning to launch a series of Islamic apps before Ramadan for Arabic apps users in the MENA market.

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