Apple's UAE online store late with iPad deliveries

As Apple unveils its new iPhone 4S, customers in the UAE experience delays of up to a week on iPad purchases online.

Retail executives in the UAE say they have seen no fall-off in their sales of Apple products since the launch of Apple's online store..Callaghan Walsh for The National
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Apple is delivering some iPads late as it struggles to manage higher-than-expected demand at its new online store in the UAE.

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Shoppers who have bought iPads since the store's launch last month have experienced delays of up to a week beyond the delivery date stated at the time of purchase.

"The demand for the product you ordered has been higher than anticipated," Apple said in an email to one customer who bought an iPad. "We are shipping as quickly as possible, but cannot meet the dispatch date we previously estimated for you."

It is unclear whether Apple is experiencing similar problems with other products. The company declined to comment.

Apple has experienced a disappointing week overall, as the new iPhone model, the 4S, failed to wow Apple enthusiasts at the product's launch on Tuesday.

Consumers had expected the unveiling of an iPhone 5 but were instead treated to an improved iPhone 4.

The new features include voice commands and a faster processor.

"Apple did nothing to stop it [rumours about the iPhone 5], because people were talking about them, which they wanted," said Dino Wilkinson, a partner specialising in communications, media and technology at the law firm Norton Rose Middle East. "When it was not that, people got disappointed."

But Apple was clever in extending the life of the iPhone 4 range and by cutting the prices of previous iPhone 4 devices, Mr Wilkinson said. The price of the 16 gigabyte iPhone 4S, the lowest of the new 4S range, is US$199 (Dh730) with a monthly data plan in the US, while the earlier 8 gigabyte iPhone 4 now costs $99.

The new model is expected to be launched in the UAE after it goes on sale in the US on October 14, but the price for customers in the Emirates has not been announced.

Apple unexpectedly launched a new online store in the UAE last month, undercutting the prices of retailers and its own local distribution partner, Arab Business Machine (ABM). Although Apple says it is experiencing high demand at the online store, retail executives in the UAE say they have seen no fall-off in their sales of Apple products since the launch of the online store.

Shops have begun to reduce their prices to match those on Apple's UAE website, and official resellers of Apple products have expressed anger at not being consulted about the launch of the online store.

"What we are struggling with now is why the move was made so suddenly and abruptly," said Omar Abushaban, the general manager at Plug-ins Electronix. "If you are truly calling people partners in the market, you can make sure there are price revisions before the website is kicked off."

Apple launched its store with many products - including laptops, iPhones and iPads - at prices hundreds of dirhams lower than prices at physical stores and other online retailers.

Mr Abushaban says he is working with ABM on reducing prices and margins to match the prices on Apple's UAE online store.

Nadeem Khanzadah, the deputy general manager for retail at Jumbo Electronics, said he did not think the online store would harm Jumbo's business.

"I think it will have a positive impact on Apple as it has been an under-serviced brand," he said.

Yasser Sharaf, the managing director of the electronics chain Sharaf DG, believes Apple is "sure" to open a store in the UAE in the near future.

"They have authorised dealers, but what we think [is] that they have set up an online store so the next step is to set up their own [physical] store," he said.