Dubai: Rijosh Joseph, 25, is a busy man.
Besides shuttling between office and client meetings or liaising with journalists as an account manager, he divides his time between fiddling with his BlackBerry phone, BlackBerry playbook and PC at work, and tinkering with his Sony Vaio laptop, Xbox Kinect and Samsung smartphone at home.
He's currently eyeing the Samsung Smart TV, which lets users browse the web right on the television, and the Samsung Tablet 10.1, which is reportedly a shade thinner than iPad2.
Every month, this self-confessed tech junkie from India spends more than Dh2,000 on high-speed internet access; mobile phone calls, emails and chats; video games and home movies. That monthly expenditure doesn't include the amount of money he spends on the latest gadgets and tech tools once every two months.
His most recent acquisition is the BlackBerry playbook, which set him back Dh2,099. It comes in handy when he's out meeting people and needs to scribble some notes. He has also taken home a Harman entertainment system equipped with a Blu-ray player.
Joseph's personal tech spending accounts for 30 per cent of his income and goes up by at least Dh5,000 each year. He spends more on technology than he does on fuel for his car.
He admits his passion for tech tends to eat into his budget. "[That's why] I need to calculate and allocate budgets accordingly, based on my desire for the latest gizmo that is out in the market," he says.
Many consumers have an obsession with technology. Laptops, cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), email, social networking, iPhones and BlackBerrys dominate our modern world.
Not too long ago, the average UAE resident spent a little over Dh1,900 on consumer electronics. However, as more products are launched and consumers become increasingly enamoured with gizmos and gadgets, per capita spending rose to more than Dh2,000 by 2009.
According to data collated by Euromonitor International, the UAE's technologically-savvy residents in 2009 splurged Dh9.4 billion on computers, mobile phones, portable media players, camcorders, cameras, video players, television sets and projectors, home audio and cinema, among others.
About six years ago, 47.6 per cent of UAE households owned products such as DVD players/recorders. By 2010, the figure had ballooned to 78.4 per cent.
"As manufacturers develop even more new technologies and integrate them into new in-home consumer electronic products, UAE consumers are expected to buy them in increasing numbers, particularly in light of the anticipated rises in disposable income," Euromonitor said in its report.
Beyond consumer electronics, the UAE also tops the charts when it comes to residents' internet habits. Reports show that there are more internet users, international internet bandwidth and personal computers in the UAE than in other Arab countries.
The number of households with broadband internet-enabled computers increased from three per cent in 2005 to nearly 19 per cent in 2009.
Mobile phone subscriptions have also grown at an average rate of 21.4 per cent per year since 2003.
With so many products available in the market, there is a risk of overshooting one's buying capacity. Muzammil Syed takes care to stick to a monthly budget. The product manager from India has a laptop in the office, another laptop at home, a BlackBerry and a Samsung mobile phone and an Xbox.
Every month, he spends Dh300 to Dh400 on mobile phone bills and buys two to three video games. Cable television and internet subscription costs him Dh300 monthly. The last big-ticket item he took home was a 42-inch LED television set. He puts down his monthly tech spending as Dh1,000, on par with his monthly grocery bill, yet higher than his utility and fuel expenditures.
"That's 15 per cent of my income. I keep a fixed amount every month. Once spent, that's it," he says. "For example, if a new game is out and I've already bought two games and spent my limit, I'll postpone the purchase until next month."
Syed's wife, on the other hand, isn't as tech savvy. Her only major tech-related expense is the Dh50 monthly chat package on her BlackBerry. "What she spends is nothing," he says with a laugh.
While technology is eating into some people's pockets, it is actually helping others minimise their spending.
Alex Hutley, 27, a British expat who works as a senior digital strategist in Dubai, is pretty wired, like most tech-savvy individuals. He has two mobile phones, internet and cable TV subscriptions. He streams music, buys video games two or three times a week, and brings home a new device roughly every month.
However, his tech habits, excluding the occasional gadget buys, cost him only about Dh800 to Dh900 a month. The amount takes care of his internet connection, cable TV subscription, mobile phone calls, BlackBerry messaging, video games and music downloads.
His expenses have actually dropped, thanks to "technological convergence". In the last few years, technological convergence has made it possible for people to have many uses in one device.
Gone are the days when phones are used only for voice conversations or when each entertainment medium can be played only on a specific device.
These days, a smartphone can function as your radio, PC, camera, GPS, audio recorder or video player. A console doesn't just play video games, it can also play music and movies. Besides, the free or cheaper applications available on new devices can mean you can enjoy technology without spending any or more money.
"I no longer have a digital camera, MP3 player, GPS, heart rate monitor, etc. I also save tremendous amounts on phone calls and text messages by using social messaging services. In addition, the barriers for people to get into video editing, music production, photo editing activities that used to require heavy and expensive programs such as Photoshop has been reduced with the entry of super powerful applications," says Hutley.
The key is to invest in the right devices. "Once you have the key tools in place, such as a laptop, a smart phone and a tablet, the applications available on them for free or very little mean you can get a weekly, daily or hourly fix of incredible technology for very little."
Hutley says there are a host of applications and legal services available online that lets you stream and share music, play videos, enjoy photography or deliver hours of entertainment without the need to spend so much money.
In fact, while Hutley buys video games two or three times a week, his purchases amount to only Dh50 a month and his music downloads range between Dh50 and Dh100. "You don't have to spend to enjoy technology," he says.
Keeping pace with technology
- Dh9.4bUAE spending on consumer electronics in 2009
- 78.4%UAE households that own DVD players and recorders
- 21.4%average rate of growth in UAE mobile phone subscriptions since 2003