Improved Supply Sees GCC Smartphone Market Return to Growth


Mar 8, 2023

Dubai – Newly released data from IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker shows that shipments of mobile phones to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region grew 5.3% quarter on quarter (QoQ) in Q4 2022 to total 5.51 million units. Smartphone shipments were up 5.4% QoQ to 5 million units, while feature phone shipments grew 4.9% over the same period to 0.51 million units. In terms of value, the GCC smartphone market was worth $2.05 billion in Q4 2022, an increase of 6.0% QoQ, while the feature phone market totaled $8.64 million, up 2.6%.

Consumer spending faced inflationary pressures throughout much of 2022, and smartphone brands had to contend with challenging supply shortages. However, the supply issues began to improve in the final quarter of the year, with strong shipments of devices from the ultra-low-end price band (<$100) by Samsung and Xiaomi — especially the A04 series and the A1 Plus, respectively — helping the market to gain traction.

"A strong performance from the ultra-low end and mid-range price bands resulted in quarterly growth for Android shipments, while improving supply toward the end of the quarter allowed for good growth in iOS shipments, particularly in the UAE," says Akash Balachandran, a research manager at IDC. "The low-end price bands continue to benefit from growing travel and tourism in the region. Brands with strong entry-level model portfolios, like Infinix, Tecno, and Realme, enjoyed quarterly growth in Q4 2022, especially in Saudi Arabia. Supply in the UAE improved as well, with channels seeking to replenish the lower inventory levels seen in recent quarters.".

Saudi Arabia accounted for 51.6% of all smartphones shipped across the GCC in Q4 2022, with shipments to the Kingdom up 3.9% QoQ in unit terms. The UAE, the GCC's second-largest market, accounted for 24.9% of the region's overall smartphone market, with shipments to the country growing 11.0% QoQ.

Samsung led the GCC smartphone market in unit terms in Q4 2022 with 45.5% share, while seeing its shipments to the region grow 0.8% QoQ. Second-placed Apple, with 17.9% share, saw its shipments grow 12.7% QoQ as iPhone supply improved compared to the previous quarter. Rounding out the top three, Xiaomi accounted for 14.6% of the GCC smartphone market in Q4 2022 and recorded shipment growth of 0.8% QoQ.

Figure 1: GCC Smartphone Market by Brand Share (Units)

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IDC forecasts QoQ growth of 1.9% for the GCC smartphone market in Q1 2023. The supply of iPhones to the region is expected to increase, while Samsung is strengthening its foothold in the premium segment with more supply and marketing investment in its newly released S23 series. In the lower price bands, vendors will resort to affordable models to drive volume sales with a global economic downturn potentially worsening the economic outlook and constraining consumer confidence and budgets throughout 2023.

"5G devices accounted for 41.0% of smartphone shipments in Q4 2022, and penetration is set to continue to grow as the technology is expanding into lower price bands," says Ramazan Yavuz, a senior research manager at IDC. "The technology is expected to rapidly penetrate mid-tier price bands among Android vendors, and by the end of 2027, we expect that 5G devices will account for 90.2% of total GCC smartphone shipments."

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