Middle East and Africa (MEA) smartphone shipments are set to total 155 million units in 2015 after increasing 66% year on year during the first quarter to reach more than 36 million units, according to the latest figures announced today by global technology consulting firm International Data Corporation (IDC).
Smartphones accounted for 63% of the handsets shipped in the Middle East during the quarter and 47% in Africa. This comes at the expense of feature phones, which suffered year-on-year declines of around 20% in both regions and will make up just 27% of the overall MEA handset market by the end of 2019, says the 'Q1 2015 Mobile Phone Tracker' report.
The growth in smartphones in the MEA region is being spurred by Google's Android and Apple's iOS, with the two platforms accounting for over 95% of the smartphones shipped in Q1 2015. Shipments of devices featuring these operating systems increased by a combined 67% year on year. In the Middle East, Android currently represents 80% of market's volume, while iOS accounts for 17%; in Africa, these figures stand at 89% and 7%, respectively. Android is particularly dominant in the low to mid-priced bands, while iOS is mainly found in the $450+ price category.
BlackBerry once again suffered significant year-on-year declines across the region in Q1 2015, with the vendor's shipments falling 14% in Africa and 29% in the Middle East.
"The launch of a number of new models by the vendor seems to have had little impact on lifting the BlackBerry brand out of its continuing decline," says Isaac T. Ngatia, a senior research analyst at IDC. "The loss of the corporate segment, spurred by the continued uptake of bring-your-own-device policies among the region's enterprises, has had an adverse effect on BlackBerry's performance in the market."
The strong growth in the region's smartphone market is largely being driven by the emergence of low-priced devices that are primarily powered by Android. Indeed, almost half of all the smartphones shipped across Africa (45.1%) in Q1 2015 were priced below $100, while almost 75% fall under $200. Low-priced smartphones are also having a considerable impact in the Middle East, with the $100–200 price band accounting for the market's biggest share.