IDC: Sub-$200 devices drive growth in MEA smartphone market

IDC said smartphone shipments in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) increased 66 per cent year-on-year to reach more than 36 million units in the first quarter of 2015, and is forecasting shipments of 155 million units in the region for the year as a whole.

Android devices costing $200 (€180.70) or less were primarily responsible for the strong growth. The research company noted that almost half of all the smartphones shipped across Africa (45.1 per cent) in the first quarter were priced below $100, while almost 75 per cent fell under $200. Low-priced smartphones are also having a considerable impact in the Middle East, with the $100–$200 price band accounting for the market's biggest share, IDC added.

"This price bracket seems to be the sweet point for most vendors launching in the region, as well as for established vendors looking to increase their shares by targeting the lower end of the market," said Nabila Popal, research manager for IDC. "This has resulted in phones priced under $200 accounting for about 36 per cent of the Middle East smartphone market, while at the other end of the spectrum the $450+ price band has seen its share fall from 25 per cent in Africa and 48 per cent in the Middle East a year ago, to 14 per cent and 34 per cent today."

The company also noted that smartphones accounted for 63 per cent of the handsets shipped in the Middle East during the quarter and 47 per cent in Africa. "This comes at the expense of feature phones, which suffered year-on-year declines of around 20 per cent in both regions and will make up just 27 per cent of the overall MEA handset market by the end of 2019," IDC said.

Google's Android and Apple's iOS accounted for over 95 per cent of the smartphones shipped in the first quarter. Shipments of devices featuring these operating systems increased by a combined 67 per cent year on year.

In the Middle East, Android currently represents 80 per cent of the of market's volume, while iOS accounts for 17 per cent. In Africa, these figures stand at 89 per cent and 7 per cent respectively. Android is particularly dominant in the low- to mid-priced bands, while iOS is mainly found in the $450-plus price category.

Nigeria and South Africa contributed significantly to the overall growth seen in Africa, with these two countries experiencing year-on-year growth of 135 per cent and 56 per cent respectively. Nigeria accounted for 14 per cent of all smartphone shipments across the continent during the first quarter, while South Africa was responsible for 12 per cent.

Indeed, recent figures from the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) also show that the total number of telecoms subscribers in the market reached over 146.5 million in May this year, of which more than 144 million were on GSM-based networks.

Samsung, Tecno and Apple were the leading smartphone vendors in Africa during the quarter, with Huawei being ousted from the top three, IDC noted. The three leading vendors accounted for a combined 55 per cent share of Africa's smartphone shipments in the first quarter.

For the Middle East region, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were the biggest markets, with the former accounting for around 20 per cent and the latter 17.6 per cent. Saudi Arabia saw year-on-year shipment growth of 9.5 per cent, while the Turkish market expanded 33 per cent over the same period.

Samsung, Apple and Huawei are the three leading smartphone vendors in the Middle East, together accounting for over 65 per cent share of the market.

For more:
- see this IDC release
- see these NCC stats

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Nokia Networks, Zain KSA complete Saudi Arabia's first LTE carrier aggregation trial
Report: Saudi Arabia remains largest telecoms market in MEA despite revenue drop
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