Price and packages help smartphones ring in change

Gitex 2011: Du says almost a third of its mobile subscribers are using smartphones. Watch video

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Almost a third of du's mobile subscribers now use smartphones, with the UAE telecommunications operator forecasting growth in the use of top-of-the-range handsets.

"We have around 28 per cent of our subscribers using smartphones," said Khalid Murshed, the vice president of mobile access network technology at du.

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Speaking at the Gitex technology show in Dubai, Mr Murshed said there was "a long way to go" in further boosting the uptake of smartphones.

The most popular smartphones among du customers are made by Samsung, followed by the BlackBerry. Sony Ericcson and iPhone handsets jostle for third and fourth place.

A spokesman for the rival UAE operator Etisalat said he could not immediately provide comparable data.

Mr Murshed said the popularity of different smartphones was mainly down to price and call packages offered by the operator.

"It's not really about who's better: BlackBerry, Apple or Samsung. It's about the offering that we do, and the type of handset that the customers can afford," he said.

According to the research firm IDC, Android-compatible mobile phones are the most popular globally, and are forecast to retain their lead with a 23.7 per cent year-on-year growth in sales.

BlackBerry is forecast by IDC to see a decline in its market share, with the newcomer Windows Phone set to overtake it by 2015, and become the second-most popular operating system.

Mr Murshed said du now had 4.75 million active mobile subscribers in the UAE, constituting a market share of about 44 per cent.

Greater rivalry between du and Etisalat is expected because of changes to the UAE's telecommunications regulations.

Mobile number portability, which will allow users to switch mobile operators without changing numbers, is tipped to enhance competition between the two players.

And under an infrastructure-sharing agreement, both operators will soon be able to sell landline and broadband services across the entire UAE. Currently they are restricted to offering services in certain areas.