GCC Smartphone Market Shows Growth Signs After A Year

Shipments of smartphones to the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) increased for the first time since Q1 2017. While the smartphone market’s growth to 4 million units in Q3 2018 represents a modest 1.1 percent increase quarter on quarter (QoQ), it is a significant sign of stabilization for a market that has suffered five consecutive quarters of declines, as per IDC’s latest Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker for Q3 2018.

Feature phones continued to grow from strength to strength in Q3 2018, with shipments to the GCC increasing 6.7 percent QoQ to reach 1.9 million units. This meant the overall GCC mobile phone market saw a combined total of 5.9 million units shipped in Q3 2018, up 2.9 percent on the previous quarter, with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait responsible for driving the market’s growth.

Saudi Arabia was the region’s top-performing market in Q3 2018, with overall mobile phone shipments increasing 8.4 percent QoQ. “New regulations requiring phones to carry IECEE certification have helped boost official shipments at the expense of gray market imports, while restrictions on the Kingdom’s 2G network have seen an influx of cheaper 3G and 4G smartphones to fill the gap,” said Kafil Merchant, a research analyst at IDC.

Kuwait’s overall mobile phone market saw growth of 2.6 percent in Q3 2018.

The rest of the region was characterized by declines in Q3 2018, with overall mobile phone shipments for the quarter down 4.2 percent in Bahrain, 4.3 percent in Oman, and 7.3 percent in the UAE.

In terms of the smartphone vendor landscape, Samsung maintained its lead in Q3 2018 with 31.2 percent share of the GCC market, despite suffering a 3.0 percent QoQ decline in shipments. Apple and Huawei followed with respective shares of 25.0 percent and 18.7 percent.

“While many of the leading brands are taking a hit in unit terms, this is largely a strategic move as they are now focusing more on increasing their profitability and the race for volume share is over. As such, vendors are pushing models that are going to add to their bottom lines, which has led to growth in the mid to high segment and an increase in the average selling prices of new flagship devices,” says Nabila Popal, a senior research manager at IDC.

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