Smartphone shipments grow in Middle East, Africa as affordable devices become popular

Smartphone shipments to the Middle East and Africa, according to a Q4 2014 Handsets tracker released by analyst International Data Corporation (IDC), experienced an unprecedented year-on-year growth of 83% in 2014. The growth was primarily caused by the increased availability of cheaper models and dual-SIM devices.

In 2014, smartphones accounted for 41.9% of all mobile handset shipments to the region, up from 27% in 2013.

The growth of more affordable smartphone, though a positive thing, has negatively affected feature phones. Year on year in 2014, feature phone shipments were down by 4.5%. Smartphones priced under US$100 captured 20% share of the MEA smartphone market in 2014, up from just five percent in 2013. Worth noticing as well is that the market share of smartphones in the US$100–200 price bracket increased eight percentage points in just one quarter, from 25% in Q3 2014 to 33% in Q4 2014. There was however drop in shipments in smartphones priced between US$250 and US$500. Their share of the overall market fell by four percent from 23% in Q3 2013 to 18% in Q4 2014.

“Many new vendors have been eager to get into the region’s burgeoning smartphone space, with a number of them launching phones in this growing price band,” says Nabila Popal, IDC’s research manager for handsets and display solutions in the Middle East and Africa. “This strategy of targeting the mid and low end of the market has contributed significantly to the success of vendors like Huawei and Lenovo.”

This is however not the only reason driving the surge in affordable smartphone in the Middle East and Africa. Dual-Sim smartphones are also playing a role in shaping the market. Such devices have increased by 34% year on year in Q4 2014.

Read more: Apple sold more smartphones than anyone else in Q4 2014

Isaac T. Ngatia, a senior research analyst at IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey, says that “Vendors such as Samsung and HTC launched variants of their flagship S5 and HTC One M8 models with dual-SIM capabilities. Demand for such devices stems from the fact that a growing band of consumers want to enjoy cheap cross-network calls and offers from multiple telcos and therefore retain more than one SIM card for their personal use.”

This data also points out at the levels of penetration, showing that penetration rates are increasing in both Middle East and African countries. This is evident in markets like Nigeria and Kenya where smartphone shipments have increased 135% and 112%, respectively, year on year in 2014. Pakistan saw a growth of 105% over the same period.

Leading handsets

Samsung maintained its number-one position in MEA, but exhibited sign of not performing well, both in year on year and quarter comparisons. Its smartphone share fell from 51.5% in 2013 to 43.8% for 2014. Huawei and Apple followed in second and third place with shares of 8.9% and 7.8%, respectively.

In quarter to quarter comparisons, Samsung’s share dropped 7.8 points from Q3 to Q4 2014. On the other hand, Huawei and Apple saw their shares increase 5.1 points and 2.7 points, respectively, over the same period.

Samsung’s decrease, says Popal, is due to that Samsung is now not the only player in the phablet market. “Many users that had made the switch from Apple to Samsung specifically for the larger screen sizes have now started to switch back”

The Middle East and Africa market saw a huge 58% increase in the shipment of iOS devices in Q4 2014 compared to Q3 2014. Compared to iOS devices, Android shipments increased by only 3.8% over the same period. On the other hand, Blackberry OS, did not do very well, and continued its declining trend after a temporary increase in Q3 2014.



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