Imagine a smartphone. This one knows where you are, what you’re looking at and what you like and don’t like. It can suggest where to have dinner or list the best shopping venues around simply by pointing it at a street. Actually, it’s just like a portable mini-computer with superior sound, video, graphics and GPS.
Offering a sneak peak into the future, Jay Srage, president of MEA and SEA at Qualcomm, the world’s largest supplier of chips for smartphones, believes the devices will evolve into even smarter gadgets that connect users to their environment like never before.
“It should know what you like and what’s around you, and it makes the bridge between that,” says Srage. “We are forecasting that 3 billion smartphones are going to ship in 2015, so the growth of the smartphones market is still going to be double-digit over the next five years.
This is good news for Qualcomm, whose technology is integrated in almost every smartphone manufactured today. In addition to owning the rights to the technology around 3G, which forms the basis for most smartphones, the company was the first to enable internet and data access on mobile phones. It is also the world’s top provider of chips used in LTE, or long-term evolution, wireless connections, an area that Gulf Arab countries, namely the UAE and Saudi Arabia, have been investing in heavily over the past few years. LTE, also referred to as 4G, increases upload and download times for mobile users by around four times, when compared to 3G networks.
From 2000 and 2005, the global market for smartphones grew rapidly. In the years that followed, the Middle East region emerged as the next growth frontier, after installing the first 3G network and driving demand for mobile data. Seeing this uptake, Srage took to setting up a regional office in Dubai in mid-2008, just as the global financial crisis unravelled.
“It was very challenging because companies were going through drastic measures to save costs and we were here starting a new office, but we manoeuvered through that crisis quite well,” said Srage. “When the crisis passed we were part of the regional ecosystem in the Middle East and Africa.”
Now, after the technology company merged its Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia operations, it is part of Srage’s job to support regional telecoms operators in building their own phone brands – a trend that is gaining momentum with the number of new products coming to market growing.
Dubai-based mobile phone retailer Axiom has developed the Bee phone series, while MTN in Africa and Etisalat in Egypt launched their own brands. Qualcomm, whose regional partners include Mobily, Etisalat, du, Mobinil, MTN and Airtel, provides companies with a reference design that uses its technology and puts them in touch with an original design manufacturer (ODM) in China to build a new customised product.