The Samsung Galaxy S3 has emerged as the favourite smartphone among Gulf News readers, in an online poll.
“We wouldn’t compare our smartphones to any specific competitors but we are confident that we design and engineer the best smartphones in the market. We welcome the diversity of products whether from Apple or other vendors as this provides variety for consumers, however we believe that the Galaxy S3 is the best choice for consumers because it offers a unique concept in usability, interactivity and user experience for mobile consumers,” Young Woo Jun, Director, Telecommunications Group, Samsung Gulf Electronics, said.
“We dedicate a significant amount of resources to research and development so that we can constantly stay abreast on consumer usage patterns, demands and expectations. For example, through this research we found that that people prefer larger screens on smartphones so that they can enjoy HD content on a portable yet functional screen size. As screens get larger, finding the right size that fits both usability and portability is often difficult. Through various prototyping, however, we found that 4.8-inch is ideal for most smartphone users, which is one of the reasons that the S3 has done so well,” he said.
According to market sources, Apple’s iPhone 5 did not perform well in the UAE, last year, although the iPhone 4 and 4S did better. For Samsung, the Galaxy S3 and Note 2 did brisk sales last year.
“iPhone was priced higher than almost all smartphones in the market. Samsung S3 sales increased more than fourfold than iPhone sales in the UAE,” Hamza Saleem, senior research analyst at IDC, told Gulf News.
He said that Nokia did not do well in the smartphone arena, even with Windows Phone 8, but its feature phones, like the Asha, had tremendous sales. Microsoft could only sell around 20,000 units in the UAE.
The Lumia 920’s advantage has been new features such as wireless charging and extremely high quality photography, especially in low light conditions or with a hand that is less than steady,” Panjabi said.
According to official figures, Apple could only sell around 5,000 units of iPhone 5 and around 35,000 units of iPhone 4S. However, this does not include grey market sales. Apple holds 3.4 per cent of UAE market, but if grey sales are also included, it may come to around 20 per cent.
Samsung is expected to remain the leader in smartphones this year, but will face fierce competition for the top spot. According to retailers, there are four or five competitors for the best smartphone title. “I don’t think there is a perfect smartphone yet and I’ve still found myself using more than one phone most times,” Ashish Panjabi, COO of Jacky’s Group of Companies, told Gulf News.
The iPhone 5 is slim, light and solid. LTE availability in the phone is a significant leap forward in terms of speed. The Galaxy Note 2 is a massive phone with a 5.5-inch display and a special stylus called the S Pen for writing or doodling on the screen. The huge size of phone has received mixed reviews from customers.
“Currently for us, the best-selling smartphone is the Samsung Galaxy S3,” Nadeem Khanzadah, Head of Retail at Jumbo Electronics, said.
Panjabi said that in terms of App experience, nothing beats the Apple iOS platform, but for battery life, the best is the Samsung Galaxy Note II. For cost efficiency for data and connectivity while roaming, BlackBerry with their Z10 is his best bet. “For camera experience, I would go for the Nokia Lumia 920. I am currently using an iPhone 4S and the Blackberry Z10,” he said.
Samsung has devices to suit most budgets. Samsung has also been slightly more open than Apple in that they use a more universally adopted micro-USB charger.
According to Khanzadah, Samsung S3 and the iPhone 5 have their own pros and cons. Both have different designs - iPhone has a metal body with hard line and the S3 has a plastic body with smooth curves. For those less interested in the technology, the iPhone 5 is much easier to use, easier to hold and is more robust.
However, he said that technology fans may find the Samsung Galaxy S3 easier to use, thanks to its relative openness, micro-SD card slot and lack of restrictions. For games and camera, the iPhone 5 wins. If money is the sole criteria then S3 takes the lead.
And, Blackberry remains popular. “Blackberry devices will certainly retain a lot of the share they currently hold in the UAE market. The Z10 has so far proven to be a more versatile and reliable device than the Bold 9900, which was the previous flagship in the Blackberry family. The App experience and multi-tasking capabilities have shown a remarkable improvement as well compared to previous generation Blackberry devices,” Panjabi said.
BlackBerry has sold more phones than Samsung in the UAE for the full year. Blackberry sold 623,000 units compared to 520,000 for Samsung. The fourth quarter was good for BlackBerry and it has slashed its prices following the release of its new operating system – BlackBerry 10 or BB10.
“Z10 can be a game changer for BlackBerry and it has [yet to be seen] how consumers adopt the new devices. Even the best product needs marketing and BlackBerry needs to spend a lot on marketing to promote the devices and regain market share,” Annette Zimmermann, Principal Analyst, Consumer Markets and Technology at Gartner Deutschland GmbH, said.
“It has got lot of great features to win back corporate customers and what they need to do is win back consumers. Consumerisation of IT and bring your own device is gaining momentum across the world, so winning back consumers is the key,” she said. BlackBerry is expected to launch six different models this year at different prices.
With the Z10, consumers get a lighter device than the Lumia 920 which has an extremely powerful messaging platform. The App development for both platforms (Windows Phone 8 and Blackberry 10) is not comparable to Android or iOS just yet so that’s a compromise you make with both at the moment.
“BlackBerry models still continue to remain popular among several segments in this region. Responsive bright touchscreen, great security features, fast processing, and BlackBerry Hub are the standout features in the new phone, but there are a lot of factors that extend well beyond the actual Z10 device that determine if it is going to succeed, including the number of apps that run on it, the pricing and marketing of specific features,” Khanzadah said.
“With new launches from Sony Xperia Z, HTC M7, BlackBerry10 range of phones and Apple’s new iPhone release, it’s going to be an exciting time ahead for the industry,” he added.