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Smartphone shipments in GCC increase 20.2% in third quarter to 4.8m

(Image credit: Future)

The smartphone shipments in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries posted a 20.2% year-on-year growth in the third quarter of this year to 4.8m units.

When compared to quarter on quarter, the market posted a 2.2% growth.

However, when considering value, Nabila Popal, senior research manager at International Data Corporation (IDC), told TechRadar Middle East that the GCC smartphone market posted a quarter-on-quarter decline of 1.1% and year-on-year growth of 4.7%.

Samsung was the leader with 46% market share, followed by Apple with 18% and Huawei with 17%.

Huawei, which was the number two player from the fourth quarter of last year, lost ground to Apple in the third quarter due to the US-China trade war.

In the UAE, shipments increased by 4.4% quarter-on-quarter growth in units and a 21.4% year-on-year growth in the third quarter. 

Although Huawei did see a quarter-on-quarter decline of 9.4% in shipments, Popal said that the vendor did post annual growth of 12.9% in shipments – a testament to the continuous popularity of their low and mid-end offerings.

Huawei to face the heat

With a lack of clarity related to the Google services support issue, Popal said that Huawei is likely to continue to struggle, especially in the high-end devices. 

“Some channel players are losing confidence in the brand’s future and starting to look to other vendors that can potentially help fill the gap such as Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo – which are increasing their focus in this region, and this might be the perfect opportunity to do so. 

“At the same time, they are releasing aggressively-priced feature-rich devices which are being well received. Although the share is still relatively small for these vendors, the opportunity for growth is there,” she said.

Even though the Note Series did well, Akash Balachandran, senior research analyst at IDC, said that Samsung’s growth is primarily due to the success of its ‘A’ series and also to some extent the low-end ‘J’ series.  

“High-end phones do not contribute a lot to the volume across almost all brands, and the same is the case for Samsung. Even though the Note series did well for Samsung, it was not the key driver for the massive growth in shipments and market share in the third quarter,” he said. 

Apple to shine in fourth quarter

Popal said that Apple shipments were flat in the quarter when compared to the second quarter despite the hype and popularity of Apple’s new releases. 

“The majority of new Apple devices were shipped only in the final two weeks of the third quarter. However, we expect Apple to post some growth in the fourth quarter, as the shipments of the new devices increase,” she said.

The GCC smartphone market is expected to post a high single-digit growth for the year compared to 2018, due to the growth in volume seen in its three largest markets like Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar. 

For the fourth quarter, Popal said that Samsung has been refreshing its top-performing line of A-series devices. Considering the A-series easily makes up the majority of smartphones sold by Samsung, she said that these new launches should help Samsung retain market share if they are well received as its predecessors.

“Apple’s iPhone 11 series has seen excellent sellout. Early feedback indicates that these new launches should see Apple post significant unit and value growth in the fourth quarter,” she said.