Nokia X smartphone launches in the UAE, selling for less than Dh500

Nokia is pinning its hopes on the highly competitive mid-range smartphone segment, expected to grow 20 per cent this year, as it launches its first Android phone.

Vithesh Reddy, the general manager of Nokia Lower Gulf, says the new Nokia X range aims aims to address the scarcity of available apps. Pawan Singh / The National
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Nokia is pinning its hopes on the highly competitive mid-range smartphone segment as it launches the Nokia X in the UAE, its first Android phone, selling for less than Dh500.

The mid-range smartphone segment is set for a 20 per cent growth rate worldwide this year as traditional mobile users start to migrate to more sophisticated devices.

While Nokia’s mobile sales were second only to Samsung last year globally, it lags badly in the smartphone market. It ranks outside the top five manufacturers globally, according to the research company Gartner.

“Nokia X is a new family of devices targeted at the affordable smartphone segment, which is the fastest-growing segment for smartphones,” said Vithesh Reddy, the general manager of Nokia Lower Gulf.

“That segment is pretty significant in the Middle East. We dominate feature phone segments and we are growing and getting a bigger following with our [high-end] Lumia devices based on starting it as our focus.”

The Nokia X range, priced at Dh439, features Nokia's own applications such as Here maps, Microsoft services including Word and access to Google's Android app store.

The range was announced last month at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and aimed to address one of the main complaints against Nokia smartphones – namely the scarcity of available apps compared with Apple's App Store and Google Play.

“It is a significant amount of choice,” said Mr Reddy. “We see this as a platform to bring users into the entry model and then grow them up to the Lumia experience.”

Nokia mobiles dominate the market not just in the UAE but across the Middle East and Africa, with 45 per cent marketshare, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC).

Samsung has about 18 per cent share of the mobile market but leads in smartphone sales, a faster growing segment of the regional market, eating into Nokia's lead. However, the low-cost Nokia 101/1010 handset is still the No 1 phone in the country, according to data for the fourth quarter of last year from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.

“In the overall market situation where Android OS has been the market leader for past few years in the region, the new Nokia X family has a lot riding on it to mark the return of Nokia to the smart device segment with a big bang,” said Nabila Popal, the research manager at IDC.

“The X devices are targeted for the lower price segment – US$100 to $120 – and with many players already fighting in that segment, mostly in the emerging markets with local brands taking the lead, Nokia has its work cut out.”

But given Nokia’s strong brand in the region, the X lineup may appeal to a wide range of customers, he said.

“Nokia will initially launch two of the three X-series devices in the UAE. With events such as Gitex Shopper this April and other smartphone launches, Nokia should stand out, as the focus of most other brands will be on flagship devices,” said Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer at Jacky’s Electronics.

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