Zawya Dow Jones/Duba
lackBerry’s new Z10 smartphone has received a lukewarm response across the Gulf, a key region for the smartphone-maker in its global push to claw back some of the market share it lost to competitors.
The all-touchscreen Z10 was simultaneously unveiled on January 30 in six cities across the world, including Dubai, and countries in the Gulf region were some of the first markets globally to begin selling the phone on February 10.
The response to the device however has been mixed at best, according to analysts and retailers, and some online stores are now discounting the phone by up to 15% to entice buyers. Dubai-based Emitac Mobile Solutions, one of just two distributors of BlackBerry phones in the Gulf, has sold “close to” 300,000 Z10 devices since February 10, the company said.
EMS distributes BlackBerry handsets in the Middle East, Africa, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Eastern Europe and South East Asia with Saudi Arabia making up about 50% of sales, the UAE accounting for some 20% and the remaining countries about 30%.
“300,000 in about 6 weeks is not a big number for EMS,” said Dubai-based Hamza Saleem, a senior analyst for mobile handsets at research firm IDC. “I do not think the response has been overwhelming.”
EMS holds about 55% share of BlackBerry sales in the Gulf, with the remainder sold by Dubai-based Axiom Telecom, according to IDC. The firm’s latest figures, as at the end of 2012, show BlackBerry to be the market leader for smart phones in the Gulf, with 35% of the market, followed by Samsung, Nokia and then Apple-underscoring the region’s importance to BlackBerry.
“Pre-bookings of the BlackBerry Z10 were successful and working closely with our distributors - EMS and Axiom Telecom - and carrier partners, we had to keep up with the demand from customers here,” Chris Corsi, BlackBerry’s country director for the UAE, Oman and Pakistan, said in an e-mail to Dow Jones Newswires.
BlackBerry didn’t reveal its sales figures in the region or comment on the market response to the Z10, while Axiom wasn’t immediately available for comment. Online retailers such as JadoPado.com and Souq.com meanwhile were selling the handset at 2,199 dirhams ($599) and 2,289 drihams, respectively, compared to a market price of 2,599 dirhams in the UAE. “The start was very good because it was one of the iconic launches,” said Nadeem Khanzadah, head of retail for Jumbo Electronics, a retailer with 27 stores across the UAE. “But after 15 days sales dramatically slowed down.”
The lacklustre mood surrounding the phone was reflected by a similar reaction at the device’s US debut on Friday despite RIM’s biggest-ever marketing drive.
Most analysts and retailers however expect RIM to do much better with the Q10, another phone that BlackBerry is banking upon to resurrect its standing in the market.
The Q10 is expected to go on sale in the Gulf region in the final two weeks of April, but no firm date has currently been set, according to Babar Khan, the chief executive at EMS.
Sales of the Q10 are expected to be much higher than the Z10 because customers, particularly businesses, will be attracted to the traditional physical keyboard, Khan said, something that other analysts, retailers and even the company expects.
“We plan to launch the BlackBerry Q10 in the second calendar quarter of 2013 and we are confident fans of our physical keyboards will be waiting to get their hands on this smartphone,” BlackBerry’s Corsi said.
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