News Column

BlackBerry aims for UAE mid-market with Z3

June 29, 2014

John Everington

BlackBerry is hoping its re-entry into the rapidly growing mid-tier smartphone market with the Z3 will boost its flagging fortunes.

The beleaguered Canadian handset and software company last week announced that the Z3 will launch in the UAE early next month, and is available for pre-order through the BlackBerry store in The Dubai Mall.

The handset with features including a 5-inch touch display, BlackBerry Messaging and limited Android app downloads, will retail for Dh899.

While other BlackBerry handsets are available for as little as Dh600, the Z3 is the company's first mid-price handset to run BlackBerry 10, the company's most recent operating system.

The launch of a lower-cost handset such as the Z3 does not signal a retreat by BlackBerry from the enterprise sector, traditionally its core market, according to Nabila Popal, a research manager at the tech consultancy IDC in Dubai.

"The price of high-end smartphones is gradually falling, while at the other end of the spectrum you have the emergence of a lot of vendors launching devices for the lower-end segment," said Nabila Popal, a research manager at IDC in Dubai.

"So for them to launch a model that fits in that segment is a good approach."

Devices costing less than US$200 represent nearly 40 per cent of smartphones sales in the Middle East and Africa, which have risen 8 per cent since 2012, according to IDC.

The introduction of the Z3 in some way mirrors BlackBerry's launch of the lower cost 8520 handset in emerging markets in 2009, according to Anshul Gupta, a principal research analyst with Gartner.

"They were active in that space and then they moved out, and now they're trying to come back. They're back with a new operating system and they're slowly trying to expand their portfolio," he said.

But while handsets such as 8520 gained strong market share, this time around BlackBerry is likely to struggle, said Mr Gupta.

"It's going to be very challenging because the market is very different now," he said.

"If you look at end users in emerging markets they're strongly inclined towards Android, and Windows also has a lot of options. So they're not going to find it as easy in the past when they expanded their portfolio downwards."

BlackBerry's share of the smartphone market in the Middle East and Africa has shrunk to just under 5 per cent in the first quarter of this year from almost 20 per cent in 2012, according to IDC data. Its global market share stood at just 0.5 per cent in the first quarter.

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Source: National, The (United Arab Emirates)

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