According to Canalys, the smartphone market in the Middle East (excluding Turkey) experienced a 3.5% annual decline in Q1’23, with a total of 8.8 million smartphones shipped. Despite this decline, the region showed resilience by outperforming the global market, which witnessed a significant 13% annual decline in smartphone shipments.
Among the sub-regions, the Middle East emerged as the best performing area. Although the Q1 decline marked the end of nine months of regional growth, the Middle East showed its strength even in the face of economic challenges.
In Q1’23, Saudi Arabia’s smartphone shipments saw modest growth of 1%. This growth can be attributed to consumers prioritizing spending on food, beverages, and entertainment as the economy reopens. Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) experienced a 3% year-on-year decline in smartphone shipments, mainly due to limited marketing spending that prevented vendors from capitalizing on the growing trend, despite expanding into the retail industry.
Iraq’s smartphone market witnessed a 3% annual decline in Q1’23 as consumers focused on saving money for essential expenses. Kuwait faces an 11% annual decline in smartphone shipments, with consumers holding onto newer upgrades. In contrast, Israel recorded an impressive growth of 26% in smartphone shipments. This growth was driven by high demand for premium smartphones and the booming tech industry, earning Israel the title of “start-up nation.”
Samsung and Apple continue to dominate the smartphone market in the Middle East. Samsung’s after-sale service, brand perception, and channel prioritization, along with the growing popularity of its S23 series, contributed to its success. Apple’s year-on-year growth has been fueled by strategic partnerships with local retailers and operators in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, as well as its strong appeal to the younger generation. Additionally, attractive installment payment options have served as growth catalysts in the region.
Despite the prevailing economic challenges, analysts from Canalys believe that the long-term potential of the smartphone market in the Middle East remains strong. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE are showing signs of recovery from the pandemic, especially with the fast-growing tourism industry. However, the market outlook is affected by persistent inflation, rising interest rates, and unpredictable geopolitical developments in the short term.
Canalys estimates that the smartphone market in the Middle East will maintain similar shipment levels as last year in 2023. Smartphone vendors are expected to adopt a more cautious approach, focusing on distribution channels and effective management local product pricing to navigate potential recessionary pressures. Despite the challenges, the Middle East continues to present opportunities for smartphone manufacturers to tap into its resilient and tech-savvy consumer base.
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