Cheap Handsets Cause Smartphone Jump in MEA

Smartphone shipments rose 83% YoY in the MEA region in 2014. The availability of cheap and dual-SIM models bolstered demand last year, with smartphones taking 41.9% of the region’s mobile phone market, according to IDC – up from 27% in 2013, with the overall handset market expanding 19.6% in volume terms.

Affordable smartphones have hit the feature phone market hard, with sales slipping 4.5% in 2015. Sub-$100 smartphones took 20% of the MEA market, up from 5% in 2013. Market share of $100 – $200 units rose eight percentage points in a single quarter, from 25% in Q3 to 33% in Q4. Over the same period, $250 – $500 smartphones saw their market share fall from 23% to 18%.

Many vendors have been launching low-cost phones in MEA, says IDC’s Nabila Popal, who added, “This strategy of targeting the mid and low end of the market has contributed significantly to the success of vendors like Huawei and Lenovo”.

Dual-SIM phones, rising in popularity, are helping to shape the market. Shipments rose 34% YoY in Q4’14. Vendors including Samsung and HTC launched dual-SIM variants of their flagship devices (the S5 and One M8). Demand stems from consumers desiring cheap cross-network calls and offers from multiple operators.

Most smartphone growth stemmed from countries with large populations and low penetration rates. Shipments to Nigeria and Kenya, for example, rose 135% and 112%, respectively, in 2014. Pakistan shipments climbed 105%. The more mature GCC sub-region rose 31.8% YoY, with smartphone penetration rising to 72.6%.

Over the overall mobile phone market, Samsung maintained its leading position – but its smartphone share fell from 51.5% to 43.8% in 2014. Huawei came in second and Apple in third, with shares of 8.9% and 7.8%. The same trend can be observed QoQ: Samsung’s share fell 7.8 percentage points between Q3 and Q4, while Huawei and Apple rose 5.1 points and 2.7 points, respectively.

IDC says that Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were responsible for its growth, helping the vendor to take share from Samsung, which previously dominated the large-screen phone market in MEA. Huawei’s Honor 3 and Ascend Y are performing well in the low- and mid-end market, striking a good balance between quality and price. The vendor is even killing off the local competition in some markets.

As in other global markets, iOS shipments in MEA rose in the double-digits between Q3’14 and Q4’14: 58%. Android shipments rose just 3.8% over the same period. Blackberry OS shipments continued to fall, after a temporary rise in Q3.