One of the sessions held at BlackBerry Live conference yesterday gave us a peak into the current state of BlackBerry in the Middle East. The session, headed by Robert Bose, Regional Managing Director, Middle East, gave us some numbers about two countries in particular- the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Bose acknowledged that BlackBerry is no longer the number one smartphone vendor in the Middle East- a title that now belongs to Samsung with a 44% market share in the UAE. However, BlackBerry continues to be an extremely strong player and is very focused on the Middle East. This was evident by the launch of the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone in the UAE and KSA that were part of the Global launch of the first next-gen device from BlackBerry. To-date, over 40 carriers have launched the BlackBerry Z10 in the region.
The UAE in particular has the BlackBerry Z10 as well as the Curve 9220 devices listed in the top-ten selling smartphones for March 2013 according to Gfk. Robert quoted Axiom’s CEO Faisal Al Bannai stating that the BlackBerry Z10 accounted for 60% of their total smartphone sales in February. He also hinted that early data has suggested that the new QWERTY based BlackBerry Q10 is doing even better. Based on our findings, the BlackBerry Q10 should be poised to add another device for BlackBerry in the top-ten- possibly right at the top. Lastly, he mentioned that the BlackBerry concept retail store is in the final stages and should be launching in Dubai very soon.
Sadly, there was no real update when I asked him about the availability of BBM Voice and Video in the UAE and he just mentioned that they are in talks to try and get these great services to UAE users of BlackBerry devices. The UAE is the only country in the GCC to block these services.
Coming to KSA, Robert mentioned that BlackBerry has recently opened an office in Riyadh and there is tremendous market opportunity as KSA has a 200% mobile penetration rate (which means that for every person in KSA, two mobile phones are sold.) The Bold continues to remain in the top-ten selling smartphones in KSA and 99% of BlackBerry users in KSA use BBM- a tremendous figure.
A vey interesting finding that Robert pointed out was that out of the entire European, Middle Eastern and African region, KSA consumers are the leading downloaders of BlackBerry 10 apps. That gives a good indication of how popular the BlackBerry Z10 has been in KSA. With BlackBerry Q10 recently added to the portfolio along with the upcoming mid-range BlackBerry Q5 arriving in July, things seem to be looking good for BlackBerry in the Middle East.