The smartphone market in the Gulf is now set for decline this year having previously been forecast to grow at almost 5 per cent as the coronavirus wreaks havoc in industry supply chains.
Massachusetts-based research company International Data Corporation is predicting a 1.4 per cent year-on-year decline, from growth of 4.9 per cent previously.
The coronavirus outbreak has created a lot of uncertainty in the smartphone industry and has had a "huge impact on the supply chain" for mobile devices, said Ramazan Yavuz, senior research manager for IDC's systems and infrastructure solutions unit in the Middle East and Africa.
“As a result, our growth forecast for the GCC's smartphone market has been revised downwards. After analysing multiple recovery scenarios, we expect a recovery in the overall situation by the second half of the year,” noted Mr Yavuz.
In the fourth quarter of last year, 5.15 million smartphones were sold in the Gulf region, according to IDC, a growth rate of 6.3 per cent quarter-on-quarter.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia – the Arab region’s two largest economies - saw quarterly smartphone shipments increase by 9.9 per cent and 6.7 per cent, respectively. Together, they accounted for more than 75 per cent of the Gulf smartphone market.
Quarter-on-quarter smartphone shipments also grew in Bahrain (9.6 per cent), Kuwait (2.1 per cent) and Qatar (3 per cent). Oman was the only Gulf market to suffer a decline, with smartphone shipments falling 2.2 per cent over the quarter.
"The shipment growth seen in some of the smaller GCC markets is a positive sign for the overall region, particularly as it comes after long periods of contraction," said Akash Balachandran, a senior analyst at IDC.
“Previously, shipments had been constrained in these markets by the introduction of new levies and taxes, shifting government policies and challenging job conditions.”
Samsung continues to have the biggest share of the GCC market, with 41 per cent of smartphone sales, with Apple second at 21 per cent and Huawei third with 15 per cent.