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MEA smartphone market 'booming'

Shipments of 4G LTE devices grow 400% in GCC, says IDC

MEA smartphone market 'booming'
4G LTE handsets are now close to accounting for half of all smartphones shipped in the GCC, IDC said

The region’s smartphone market is “booming”, according to the most recent report from IDC, which said that GCC shipments of 4G LTE handsets increased four-fold over the past year.

IDC found that, due to this explosive growth, 4G LTE handsets are now close to accounting for half of all smartphones shipped in the region. The research firm’s report also said that smartphones (including non-4G devices) make up 75% of the total phone market in the GCC.

"The GCC is less than a year behind the market development already seen in Western Europe," said Simon Baker, program manager for IDC's handset research in Central Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

"However, the market is further behind the US, where 4G already makes up three quarters of the smartphone market."

Despite this, IDC said that competition and falling prices are playing their part in boosting the uptake of 4G in the GCC region. Nabila Popal, research manager for IDC, pointed out that all Apple handsets, from the iPhone 5C up, offer LTE, and there is a much greater choice when it comes to 4G Android models, too.

"Samsung is now the region's largest vendor of LTE-enabled devices, and while the average price that a Gulf consumer currently pays for a 4G handset is close to $600 and has not fallen much over the last 12 months, cheaper models are arriving, most notably from Lenovo and Huawei," she said.

Elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa, IDC said that the overall smartphone market is rapidly expanding, with growth rates picking up over the last two quarters. The research firm said that, in the wider MEA region, the number of smartphones sold in Q3 2014 was up 300% year on year.

"We are in the midst of a boom," said Isaac Ngatia, a research analyst at IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey. "The technology levels are more basic than those seen in the GCC and 4G phones remain relatively uncommon, but many consumers are now getting their hands on a smartphone for the first time."

Baker added that the wider MEA region’s market differs to that of the GCC’s.

"Cheaper phones are the ones selling in high volumes, and prices are tumbling; the average price paid is not much more than half that in the GCC,” he explained.

“The brand situation is different, too; beyond Samsung and Chinese brands like Lenovo, Huawei, and ZTE that are making a push in the region, many of the bigger players just focus on single countries or sub-region and aren't well known beyond them."

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