MENAFN - Khaleej Times
(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) The smartphone race heated up ahead of Gitex Shopper 2013, which opens its doors today for the second time this year.
All the leading brands launched their flagship smartphones before the start of the Middle Easts largest and most anticipated consumer IT and electronics show offering record-breaking bargain deals on gadgets that include tablets, laptops, LED Smart TVs and digital SLR cameras, among others.
The eight-day electronics extravaganza at the Dubai World Trade Centre will offer more than 30,000 products to tech-savvy shoppers in the UAE. The retailers expect smartphones along with wearable gadgets to steal the show while demand is also strong for Smart TVs, low-cost tablets, laptops, storage devices, gaming, fitness and health devices.
"There is nothing that compares to Gitex Shopper, from the most famous brands in the world and the latest technology products, to an unbelievable choice all in one convenient location," said Trixie LohMirmand, senior vice-president, Dubai World Trade Centre, organiser of Gitex Shopper 2013.
Technology giants like Samsung, BlackBerry, Nokia, HTC and LG launched their flagship smartphones with commercial availability in the market. As Apples iPhone 5S and 5C has not been launched officially in the UAE so Samsung Note 3 and Galaxy Gear, HTC One Mini, Nokia Lumia 1020, LG G2 and BlackBerry Z30 will take the centre stage during the show. The participating retailers are expecting these new products to become huge crowd-pullers that will translate into better sales than last year.
"Over the years, the UAE has become among the first markets to receive the latest products from major technology brands," said Ashish Panjabi, COO of Jackys Electronics. "This shows how important this region is to their overall strategic plan," he added.
According to latest research from International Data Corporation (IDC), smatphones now account for nearly two out of every five phones in the Middle East and their volume rose 16.4 per cent in the second quarter of 2013 compared to similar period last year. It outlined that more smartphones are forecast to be shipped globally than feature phones this year. It will be the first time that smartphones will overtake feature phones as vendors are expected to ship 918.6 million smartphones this year, representing about 50.01 per cent of the total mobile shipments worldwide.
"As the smartphone markets of the developed world become saturated, the Middle East is becoming more important to handset makers as it encompasses countries with high disposable incomes and a hunger for the latest mobile technologies. As such, we expect to see vendors increasing their marketing activities in the region and expanding distribution," said Simon Baker, programme manager for mobile handsets at IDC CEMA, in a recent note.
A recent study by Google found that the smartphone penetration in the UAE is 73.8 per cent, highest rate in the world. This gives the technology giants a solid reason to focus on the UAE market and Gitex Shopper provides an ideal platform to showcase and launch their flagship products to attract tech-savvy locals and residents alike.
"The Middle East market has grown tremendously in the past few years and the mobile phones landscape is interesting and diverse across the region. In markets with high smartphone penetration rates, such as the UAE, a typical user upgrades their device every five to seven months," Nick Horton, Managing Director, Middle East and North Africa, BlackBerry, told Khaleej Times.
He said the Middle East also constitutes one of the strongest regions for BlackBerry globally.
According to data provided by research firm GfK, BlackBerry was the number two selling smartphone vendor in the UAE and number three in Saudi Arabia in June this year. Additionally, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) penetration for the region is 98 per cent, one of the highest in the world. In Saudi Arabia and the UAE the penetration rate is 99 per cent and 98 per cent, respectively, amongst BlackBerry users.
"With smartphone penetration in the Middle East amongst the highest in the world, it is expected that growth will be faster than the EMEA average over the next five years. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are ranked amongst the top markets for smartphone subscriptions and we see this trend continuing as populations grow and people transit from feature phones," Horton said.
Regarding response to the BlackBerry line-up of smartphones launched this year, he said: "We are very happy with how strongly our BlackBerry 10 smartphone portfolio is selling across the region, particularly with the recent launch of the BlackBerry Z30."
About the expectations from the BlackBerry Z30, he said it is the companys biggest, fastest and most advanced smartphone. Featuring BlackBerry 10 OS version 10.2, the new all-touch BlackBerry Z30 comes with a beautiful 5-inch display and the largest battery yet on a BlackBerry smartphone.
"The BlackBerry Z30 is very much a flagship release for BlackBerry, taking both the performance and aesthetics of BlackBerry 10 to the next level," said Faisal Al Bannai, CEO, Axiom Telecom.
"With the largest ever all-touch screen on a BlackBerry smartphone, powerful processing capabilities and substantial battery life, this is a smartphone built for both entertainment and business demands. We have already had significant pre-orders for the BlackBerry Z30, and we expect it to be one of the years best-selling devices at our stores across the UAE," Al Bannai said.
Niranjan Gidwani, deputy chief executive, Eros Group, said smartphone shipment volumes in the Middle East grew 16.4 per cent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2013, making two out of every five phones in the region a smartphone. He said handset makers are focusing their energy on tapping the high disposable incomes of the market and gaining consumer confidence by satiating the need for the latest mobile technologies.
"Starting with new and advanced products making their entry into the market at competitive prices, the handset providers are setting their base to tap the market as the smartphone markets in developed countries have become saturated."
Looking at the trend in the Middle East, he said the UAE consumers are responding brilliantly to the advanced technology used in smartphones. "The UAE is continuing to emerge as one of the most attractive retail destinations worldwide based upon its foundations of strong economy, a growing middle class, surging consumer confidence in technology and increasing domestic consumption."
About the Samsung Galaxy S4 launched this year, he said it has done brilliantly well. "We have sold approximately 150,000 units in five months. When S4 was launched in the UAE, there was a huge rush at all the stores and the product has been a favourite of all smartphone users."
About the expectations from Note 3 and Gear, he said: "We are expecting a fantastic response from the market to the Galaxy Note 3 and the Smart Gear. The Note is now an established sub-brand in itself, and once the customers get to touch, feel and experience the products features, they would be extremely tempted to own the product," Gidwani told Khaleej Times.
Neeraj Seth, senior brand communications manager - MEA, HTC, said the Middle Eastern market is fiercely competitive. In fact, research conducted by Google ranks the UAE as number one in global smartphone penetration, with 73.8 per cent of local mobile consumers carrying the devices.
"Given the UAEs strategic location - as a hub for world-class events that attract an average of over 2.5 million visitors internationally and regionally - there is an ever-growing demand for smartphones in this part of the world today. This is a clear indication that customers have a very strong brand affiliation, and they are willing to pay full value for the brand. This in essence highlights the tremendous opportunity for smartphone manufacturers such as HTC."
About the market response to HTC One and HTC One Mini, he said: "Without a doubt, the HTC One was the flagship product of 2013. We have received a tremendous response. To put this in context - we earmarked 50 per cent growth this year and are very much in line with achieving this target," Seth said.
"We are gearing up for the regions most prestigious consumer electronics show - Gitex Shopper. At the show, the HTC One LTE version - with authentic HTC accessories, Bluetooth, and additional gift vouchers - will be available at an incredible value of Dh2,699. The HTC One Mini, priced at Dh1,799, will also be showcased, along with authentic HTC accessories, such as a flip case. In addition, the HTC Desire 500 will be available with flip case and a 16GB Micro SD card for Dh999."
Nokia is also going to launch Lumia 1020 at the Gitex Shopper. The companys new flagship device, equipped with the second generation 41-mega pixel imaging sensor and innovative PureView technology, will be available for Dh2,699.
"The exclusive UAE debut at Gitex Shopper is the ideal platform for Nokia to showcase the device, which establishes a new benchmark in smartphone imaging to date," said Vithesh Reddy, general manager, Nokia Lower Gulf.
Preparations for the opening of the eagerly awaited Gitex Shopper 2013 continued at a fervent pace at the Dubai international Convention and Exhibition Centre on Friday. - KT photos by Shihab
LG, the global leader and technology innovator in consumer electronics, mobile communications and home appliances, will be introducing two flagship products at the show. It will promote its flagship smartphone G2 during the electronics extravaganza and launch the worlds first curved 3D OLED TV today.
"The UAE consumers will get a glimpse of our flagship smartphone, the LG G2. The smartphone offers users more real-life benefits such as ergonomic design, practical function and an intuitive user experience," said D.Y. Kim, president of LG Electronics, Gulf FZE.
Along with leading international brands, some newcomers are also going to join the smartphone race to further stir up the competition in the segment. Simmtronics, which is known to launch breakthrough solutions for budget-conscious consumers, will be unveiling its much-awaited smartphones, the Amazoid M1 and the Q1, at the Gitex Shopper. Powered by a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor, the M1 can host two SIM cards and features an IPS capacitive screen.
"Allowing extremely fast connectivity speed, the M1 takes smartphone communications to a higher level by featuring the most advanced mobile technologies. It comes with extra flip cover, 8-mega pixel camera and the latest technology features such as SmartSwing to answer incoming calls with a swing of your hand," Indrajit Sabharwal, managing director of Simmtronics, told Khaleej Times.
"The M1 is an important addition to Simmtronics smartphone family," he added.
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