From October 11, the UAE will be suspending BlackBerry Messenger, email and web browsing services. Etisalat and du have announced that they are looking at alternatives for users. Arabian Business looks at the options ahead.
The unique selling point of the BlackBerry was the Messenger service, which offered free and easy one-to-one communication. This will be banned from October 11 and the only alternative is to move back to previously available services such as MSN Messenger.
Another advantage of the BlackBerry was the fact that it offered an unlimited data plan available for both local and roaming. In that sense, Ashish Panjabi, chief operating officer at Jacky’s Electronics, said there is little alternative at the moment but this could change if du and Etisalat are able to offer something quickly.
“As smart phones, there are several alternatives but it may mean the telecommunications providers need to re-tweak their pricing and service packages accordingly,” he added.
Neelesh Bhatnagar, CEO of Emax, the electronics retailer that is part of the Landmark Group, said that while BlackBerry sales will obviously be hit, it “will have a positive impact on the demand for other smart phones such as Acer, Samsung, HTC, especially the Apple iPhone, which will be a major beneficiary.”
Panjabi, said that sales of BlackBerry traditionally outsold the iPhone as their outlets were supporting both telecommunication providers on BlackBerry device sales and only working with du for the iPhone.
Aggressive price packaging of BlackBerry packages and the fact that Canadian BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) had a dedicated local marketing unit, unlike its Californian rival Apple, also contributed to the popularity of the BlackBerry over the iPhone.
However, Panjabi believes the introduction of the iPhone 4 “was expected to make up a lot of ground before [Sunday’s] announcement came out and this will probably only accelerate in light of today’s announcement by the TRA.”
For Nokia fans, Panjabi believes the new Nokia N8 is due to debut in September and is expected to the Finish phone giant’s best seller for a long time.
When it comes to platforms, there are alternatives to both the BlackBerry and the iPhone, namely Android based platforms such as Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X10, Samsung’s Galaxy S, Motorola’s Milestone and a whole slew of devices from HTC and LG.
However, the situation is complicated by the fact that “the online App store for Android called “Market” is banned by the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) in the UAE and this can mean you can’t get as many Apps as the iPhone,” said Panjabi.
For those who have signed up for a year’s contract with BlackBerry, Bhatnagar said he believes that “Etisalat and du will not let customers suffer any losses and offer lucrative schemes.” However, for the moment, retailers and customers must sit tight and wait to see what the schemes and alternatives offered will be.
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