GCC mobile phone market rebounds after 2016 slump

IDC data shows Saudi market is beginning to stabilise following the Saudisation of the mobile industry

The GCC mobile phone market returned to growth in the final quarter of 2016 after suffering three consecutive quarter-on-quarter declines, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC).

The global technology research and consulting firm said the region saw the shipment of 5.98 million units in Q4, up 7.7 percent on the previous quarter.

When viewed year on year, however, the shipment numbers for Q4 were still down by 30.5 percent, IDC said.

During 2016, the region's mobile phone market experienced a sharp slowdown, with total shipments down nearly 25 percent on the previous year, the data showed.

Isaac T Ngatia, senior research analyst at IDC Middle East and Africa, said: "Saudi Arabia, which had suffered the worst declines in previous quarters, saw a reversal of fortunes in Q4 by posting the region's highest increase at 11.9 percent.

"The market is beginning to stabilise following the Saudisation of the mobile industry and the challenging macroeconomic climate that compounded the effects of its introduction."

He added that the UAE, which is the GCC's second-largest market, also saw a considerable improvement in Q4, with shipments up by about 5 percent compared to Q3.

"Q4 is traditionally the best-performing quarter of the year due to spending splurges in line with customary end-of-year and New Year festivities. As such, only time will tell whether temporary seasonal factors were the main drivers of the market's turnaround in Q4 2016," said Ngatia.

IDC's research showed that Samsung continued to lead the GCC smartphone market in Q4, with almost 35 percent share, althought the figures do not include the recall of Galaxy Note 7 shipments.

Apple was the market's biggest gainer in Q4, recording growth of 20 percent on the previous quarter to secure a 23 percent share of the GCC smartphone market.

IDC said another noteworthy development was the drop in average sales price of Android devices. Only a quarter of Android smartphone shipments to the GCC in 2016 were of phones priced above $450, a figure that stood at 50 percent just three years earlier.

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