Latest figures show the Gulf market's growth was spurred by smartphones, with the feature phone segment continuing its decline
Mobile phone shipments to the Gulf region totalled 6 million units in the first quarter of 2019, up 2.7 percent on the previous quarter and a 1.1 percent increase on the corresponding period of 2018.
Latest figures from global technology research and consulting firm, International Data Corporation (IDC), showed that the market’s growth was spurred by smartphones, with the feature phone segment continuing its decline.
IDC’s research revealed that smartphone shipments to the GCC totalled 4.3 million units in Q1, up 10.4 percent quarter on quarter and 5.5 percent annually. Conversely, shipments of feature phones declined 13.1 percent and 8.7 percent respectively to total 1.7 million units for the quarter.
"The GCC mobile phone market has faced a number of challenges over the past year, brought about by a combination of unfavorable macroeconomic conditions, changing government policies, and a lengthening of the smartphone refresh cycle," said Akash Balachandran, a senior research analyst at IDC.
"However, when viewed against the major declines that characterised much of 2018, the quarterly growth figures for Q1 2019 suggest a degree of stabilisation in the market."
Balachandran said the GCC’s two largest markets, Saudi Arabia and the UAE which together account for around 74 percent of the region’s mobile phone shipments, both posted respectable quarterly growth of 3.6 percent and 1.3 percent respectively.
"This was due to strong quarter on quarter growth in the smartphone segment, with shipments increasing 15.1 percent in Saudi Arabia and 10.8 percent in the UAE, spurred by the strong sell in of vendors like Samsung and Huawei," he added.
Some of the smaller GCC markets also had mostly positive results in the smartphone segment but Bahrain and Kuwait saw smartphone shipments for the quarter decline.
Samsung remained the clear market leader in the GCC smartphone space, with 32.6 percent unit share in Q1 while Huawei continued its steep rise, recording quarterly shipment growth of 16.5 percent to account for 25.9 percent share of the market’s smartphone shipments.
Apple maintained its third position.
"Huawei’s strong performance maintains its reign at number two in GCC smartphone market, mirroring its global ranking of smartphone vendors," said Nabila Popal, a senior research manager at IDC.
"While IDC does not expect to see any major growth in the GCC mobile phone market in 2019, the performance in Q1 suggests we are now past rock bottom."
IDC said it expects overall mobile phone shipments to grow 0.1 percent in 2019, with smartphone shipments increasing 2.6 percent over the same period.