Nokia remains the brand leader for the overall Middle East mobile phone market, with 45.2% share of the market's volume. Samsung, which ranks second, had 18.3% share of the overall handset market for Q2 2013, but held nearly half of the smartphone market, where it outsold Nokia by almost five to one.
The South Korean giant shipped nearly half of all the smartphones sold in the region in Q2 2013, with its Galaxy SIII and SIII Mini models selling extremely well. Together, they outperformed Apple's iPhone 5 and also outsold Samsung's new Galaxy S4 flagship, which was priced well above the SIII. Apple's overall smartphone share was slightly down quarter on quarter at 11.4%, as consumers awaited the launch of the next iPhone iteration.
Smartphones now account for nearly two out of every five phones in the Middle East, according to the latest research from International Data Corporation (IDC), with smartphone volumes up 16.4% in Q2 2013 when compared to the same quarter in 2012. IDC includes Turkey but excludes Egypt and North Africa in its Middle East figures.
Nokia's smartphone share crept back up into double figures, increasing from 9.7% in Q1 2013 to 11.8%. Symbian models are now being phased out as the Lumia Windows Phone lineup is extended, and it was the vendor's cheaper Lumia models that helped stage its rebound. BlackBerry held on to its position as the number-two vendor in the smartphone category, but its new Q10 and Z10 devices have made a slow start to life in the market, accounting for just 13.3% of the vendor's sales in the second quarter of 2013.
For the time being, Android rules the roost in terms of operating system, with 60% share of overall smartphone volume. However, it is no longer moving further ahead of the other operating systems, with competition beginning to heat up as iPhone sales rise and Nokia turns the corner with its Lumia Windows Phone range. "There will soon be other aspiring contenders entering the fray, as we are expecting Tizen and Firefox handsets to appear in the regional market over the next few months," says Hamza Saleem, a senior analyst for mobile devices at IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey. "But these new operating systems have to develop an ecosystem that can compete with the likes of iStore and Play Store, as apps are becoming the dominant factor when purchasing a smartphone."
Microsoft's takeover of Nokia's handset operations will only raise the stakes, as it will bring more financial muscle behind the push to put the Windows Phone OS into entry-level smartphones sold in emerging markets. Meanwhile, Chinese vendors are beginning to become more competitive against Samsung, increasing the rivalry among vendors of Android devices.
Simon Baker, program manager for mobile handsets at IDC CEMA commented, "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."