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Is UAE On The Verge Of A Smart Phone Revolution?

Be it dropping a message on whatsapp to their next door friend or making a remote business call on Skype to a distant country, individuals could be seen doing these activities with their latest iPhone, Galaxies and Xperias, in and around UAE. Not to mention Nokias and Blackberries, which still have takers in UAE for amidst a globally shrinking market, due to tough competition faced from other technologically advanced cousins. In fact over half of the UAE smartphone market consists of Nokia.

UAE is presently one of the most dynamic smartphone and tablet markets across the globe. Various surveys conducted confirm it and ranks UAE with a penetration of near around 73 percent as number one nation in terms of smartphone penetration, ahead of numerous technologically advanced counterparts such as USA and Singapore. The growth of smartphone in UAE is driven by higher per capita earnings and a predominantly young population, which makes it a suitable for latest technologies and gadgets.

Another factor stimulating the smartphone market is a culture of having multiple phones at a time. Surveys demonstrate that half of the users in UAE have two phones. Over three-fourth of the respondents use smartphone for web-browsing at least once every day whereas two third of them use it multiple times a day; excluding sms and email messaging. This indicates an aggressive online usage through smartphone in UAE. The online usages are also catalyzed by numerous affordable data plans offered by Etisalat and Du, the two national telecom service providers.

Besides, usual services such as communication, photography, music and browsing internet; smartphones are also widely used for activities such as playing games, accessing social media, reading, direction maps and searching local restaurants. Facebook predominantly dominates all social media website visit in UAE through smartphone. This is followed by Twitter and Linkedin, which are considered to be distant 2nd and 3rdrespectively. Other activities which are increasingly becoming popular in UAE are placing purchase order, mobile-banking, reviewing websites and job search etc.

Mobiles applications or apps as they are more often called as are also popular among the smartphone users, with 90 percent of the users downloading some application or the other. In addition to free apps, users also pay for numerous apps. Around 58 percent of the respondents replied that they have purchased applications from the platforms such as Apple App Store and Google Play.

Along with social sphere, smartphones are also making strong headways into business, trade and commerce in UAE. From making purchase orders in the nearby restaurant to accessing airline boarding pass, everywhere they are frequently used. Trading is another area where these smart devices are finding lot of utility these days. They are considered to be very convenient in tracking stock movement, buying and selling stocks and analyzing portfolio performances in real time.

Government agencies are also not behind and are undertaking initiatives to capitalize on the heightened usage of smartphones to add value to the end users. For instance, Dubai police has introduced a smartphone app which can be used by residents in initiating communication with the police. The application can also be used for paying fines and submitting complains.

In spite of a rich, dynamic and evolving mobile media landscape in UAE, the survey also indicates that smartphone as a platform is still underutilized when it comes to making purchase. Reasons cited for this include small screen size, lack of detailed product information and difficulties faced while typing.

The underutilized nature of the smartphone as a retail platform offers a new potential for retailers and business to capitalize. It requires marketers to conceptualize value added services which can offer improved experience as well as save time and money. Such services can inspire more shoppers to embrace the platform frequently.

Though almost an integral part of numerous lives in UAE, these devices are not insulated from criticism. The multipurpose devices take engagement to a next level. But many believe such an engagement is secondhand in nature as user gets isolated from the real world around due to being deeply engrossed in the super-enticing virtual world created by the smart device. Some psychologists consider the fascination for smartphones, prevalent among the postmodern city dwellers across the world as a gross distraction which is disturbing the public life.

Author: RKonnect
The author is the Managing Director of Research Konnection, a Dubai based market research and consulting firm that helps local and international companies to identify emerging business opportunities and successfully expand in the Gulf region. The author can be reached at waqas@researchkonnection.com
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