Shipments of smartphones to the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have increased for the first time since the first quarter of 2017.
According to IDC's latest quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker for Q3 2018, the smartphone market's growth to 4 million units in represents a modest 1.1 percent increase quarter on quarter.
IDC added that it is a significant sign of stabilisation for a market that has suffered five consecutive quarters of declines.
Feature phones continued to grow from strength to strength in Q3, with shipments to the GCC increasing 6.7 percent on a quarterly basis to reach 1.9 million units. This meant the overall GCC mobile phone market saw a combined total of 5.9 million units shipped in Q3, with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait driving the market's growth.
Saudi Arabia was the region's top-performing market in Q3, with overall mobile phone shipments increasing 8.4 percent compared to Q2.
"It seems the negative effects of Saudization and dependent taxes on the kingdom's mobile phone space are losing momentum and the market is beginning to settle down again," said Kafil Merchant, a research analyst at IDC.
"Additionally, new regulations requiring phones to carry IECEE certification have helped boost official shipments at the expense of gray market imports, while restrictions on the kingdom's 2G network have seen an influx of cheaper 3G and 4G smartphones to fill the gap."
Kuwait's overall mobile phone market saw growth of 2.6 percent in Q3 while the rest of the region was characterized by declines, with overall mobile phone shipments down 4.2 percent in Bahrain, 4.3 percent in Oman, and 7.3 percent in the UAE.
"The UAE mobile phone market is being hampered by an overall lack of disposable income and job security in the country, with the effects being felt across almost every sector," said Nabila Popal, a senior research manager at IDC. "Even events like GITEX Shopper that traditionally help boost electronics sales failed to have a significant impact."
IDC said Samsung maintained its lead in Q3 with 31.2 percent share of the GCC market, despite suffering a 3 percent decline in shipments. Apple and Huawei followed with respective shares of 25 percent and 18.7 percent.
IDC added that it expects the overall GCC mobile market to see a single-digit decline year on year, with growth returning again in 2019.
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