Even as fragile consumer confidence tempered enthusiasm for smartphones in most of the GCC countries in the fourth quarter of 2018, Qatar saw a robust 9.8 percent growth in their shipments quarter-on-quarter (QoQ), according to figures from a global market research firm.
The International Data Corporation’s (IDC) newly released Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker reveals that Qatar is the only GCC market where shipments of smartphones grew QoQ.
Saudi Arabia, which is the biggest market in the GCC with 54 percent share of the region’s mobile phone shipments, declined 2.3 percent QoQ and 8.2 percent year-on-year in Q4 2018, IDC said.
“Growth continues to evade the Saudi market after the major double-digit declines that have characterised the last few years,” said Nabila Popal, a senior research manager at IDC.
Quarter-on-quarter, overall mobile phone shipments were also down 2.4 percent in the UAE, 5.4 percent in Oman and 8.6 percent in Kuwait, while Bahrain and Qatar enjoyed respective QoQ growth of 2.1 percent and 7.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018.
Shipments of mobile phones to GCC countries fell 9.4 percent year on year in 2018 to a total of 23.6 million units, the lowest since 2013 and down 30 percent on the market’s peak in 2015 when 33.9 million units were shipped, IDC said.
The report added that 5.8 million mobile phones were shipped to the region in the fourth quarter of 2018, showing a decline of 2.2 percent on the previous quarter.
“The GCC’s mobile phone market is undergoing a considerable challenge, with shipments shrinking significantly in 2018,” said Kafil Merchant, a research analyst at IDC.
“This decline is being caused by a number of factors, including economic uncertainty, a lack of major innovation in new devices, continuous price increases, and lengthening refresh cycles,” he added.
“Since smartphone penetration is already very high in the region, these factors are combining to make consumers question whether it’s worth upgrading their device. Many are concluding that there is simply no good reason to purchase the latest new smartphone on the market.”
Another market research firm, IHS Markit said global smartphone shipments recorded a negative year on year growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2018, for a third consecutive quarter.
According to its preliminary smartphone data, global smartphone shipments reached 365.2 million units in Q4 2018, which is a 5.7 percent YoY decline.
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