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Mobile phone ‘has not achieved its potential’

UAE and Saudi Arabia have a very high number of early adopters but only few reliable mobile shopping websites or payment applications, Initiative says

Gulf News

Dubai: The increasing influence of mobile technology in telecommunications marketing, challenges and opportunities presented to industry operators in a digital age was the subject under microscope at a seminar held in Dubai on Wednesday.

The event, organised by a media communications network - Initiative, discussed about the growth of mobile phone industry as smartphones are becoming the mainstay of connecting digitally.

Sarah Ivey, Global Chief Strategy Officer at Initiative, said that the mobile phone has not achieved its potential. There is a big opportunity for advertisers and brands to take advantage of the growth.

“Early adopter markets have users who are highly active and engaged and, therefore, have higher usage levels across most smartphone activities compared with more mature markets,” said Ivey.

“However, early adopters don’t explain the entire disparity in the markets. Practical factors, such as infrastructure availability and network reliability also influence consumers’ smartphone take-up and use,” she said.

Among the Middle East and North African region, UAE has the highest smartphone ownership at 73 per cent, followed by Saudi Arabia with 59 per cent and Egypt with 47 per cent.

Ivey said that in the Mena region, 75 per cent of the users have a branded social application on their smartphones while 62 per cent use it daily and 50 per cent check it several times a day.

But according to Mohammad Mourad , Regional Manager at Google, the best device is that is close to the user, whether it is smartphone, tablet or laptop.

He said whatever the device may be; the user wants to get the best experience.

Promoted under the tagline ‘LetsTalkMobile,’ the conference was the latest in Initiative’s series of interactive gatherings for its ‘Initiatives Talks’ platform, which invites discussion and debate about the region’s telecommunications landscape.

“This is an age of rapid change for telecommunications, with new patterns of behaviour constantly supplanting ones that have only just been established. While this is exciting, it is also challenging for industry operators wanting to reach an audience,” said Ramzy Abouchacra, Regional Managing Director for Initiative in the GCC.

Among the statistics revealed by Ivey for mobile device use across the Mena region, Saudi Arabia was the keenest online shoppers, with 40 per cent of smartphone users in the country purchasing goods and services from home.

Customers in the UAE were more than twice as likely as those in Saudi Arabia to check online product reviews using their device at home and also led the way in comparing prices and looking up product specifications from the comfort of their living rooms.

“Smartphone users in Egypt were found to be least likely to shop and check product information from home. The UAE and Saudi Arabia had a very high number of early adopters, but also that there are few reliable mobile shopping websites or payment applications in these markets,” Ivey said.