Smartphone shipments to the Gulf region declined marginally by 0.9 per cent during the third quarter as discretionary spending took a back seat amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest report by International Data Corporation.
Nearly 416 million smartphones were sold in three months to September 30, Massachusetts-based research company found in its Quarterly Global Mobile Phone Tracker report.
The value of the GCC's smartphone market also fell 11.6 per cent quarterly to $1.16 billion during the period.
“Despite most countries easing lockdown measures in the third quarter, the channels chose to take a cautious view … as consumer demand remained modest throughout the quarter,” said IDC.
“Consumers continued to prioritise spending on essentials while cutting back on discretionary spending in various categories, including mobile phones.”
Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s biggest economy, accounted for 52.6 per cent of all smartphones shipped within the GCC region. However, the kingdom suffered an overall quarter-on-quarter decline in shipments due to an increase in VAT, which led to an increase in prices, IDC said.
The UAE, the region's second-largest market, saw its share of smartphone shipments increase to 24.1 per cent during the period.
South Korean brand Samsung remained the market leader in the GCC, with a 44.6 per cent market share.
"With its large portfolio of models in the entry-level and mid-range price bands, Samsung not only maintained its leading position but also captured share lost by Huawei," Akash Balachandran, a senior research analyst at IDC, said.
"The demand for low-end smartphones continues to remain strong as customers look for value and the channel remains cautious when it comes to stocking premium and ultra-premium devices," he added.
Looking ahead, the GCC smartphone market is forecast to see a quarterly shipment growth of 6.5 per cent as sales pick amid the holiday season.
"Fourth quarter has traditionally been a strong quarter for the GCC smartphone market," Ramazan Yavuz, a senior research manager at IDC, said.
Despite the ever-looming possibility of additional lockdowns and spikes in Covid-19 cases, an improvement in the market's performance is expected towards the end of the year, said Mr Yavuz, “Particularly as countries begin to normalise travel and further positive news of a Covid-19 vaccine is released.”
Brands such as Apple and Samsung will also post a strong performance in the upcoming quarters with newly released models in their portfolios, IDC predicted.
Chinese vendors, focused on securing market share in the GCC region, will continue their marketing investments, all of which will translate into a well-performing market in the short to mid-term.