Apple iPhone 15 Pro
The UAE will be among the first wave of global markets to start sales on the Apple iPhone 15. Retailers expect a bumper opening. Image Credit: Apple

Dubai: With Apple holding prices steady for all iPhone 15 models except on the Pro Max, buyers in the UAE can decide whether to upgrade as early as September 22, which is when the first units will go on sale. Booking for the model starts September 15.

“The UAE is in the first wave of launch markets worldwide for the iPhone 15,” said Rajat Asthana, Chief Operating Officer at Dubai-based Eros Group, and one of the prominent Apple retailers in the UAE. “And because launches in other Middle East and Asia markets happen later, we expect huge initial demand from consumers here and overseas who will look to the UAE market to lay their hands on the new phone.”

The iPhone 15 Pro Max after the price bump starts at Dh5,099 (this is the 256GB version, with Apple having removed the 128GB option). The base model in the new series starts at Dh3,399, while the Plus version is from Dh3,799, and the iPhone 15 Pro at Dh4,299.

Goodbye 'Lightning'

So, a lot remains the same compared to the year ago launch. But the new model will be minus the Lightning connector and instead going for the ubiquitous USB-C. 

Major UAE retailers will be running special promotions and payment schemes - with BNPL (buy now pay later) being an obvious choice – to juice up demand for the latest Apple launch.

There are an estimated 250 million iPhone users worldwide who haven't changed their handset in the last 3-4 years

- Rajat Asthana of Eros Group

The retail and wholesale markets in the UAE have already been clearing the deck for the entry through aggressive price cuts on the earlier model, dropping prices by up to Dh1,000 on the costliest models. In fact, the UAE – along with the GCC – has been one of the bright spots for smartphone demand, and Apple and its retailers will be hoping this will help with the initial iPhone 15 demand.

“The UAE and GCC both posted quarter-on-quarter and year-on-year growth in shipments during Q2-2023,” said Ramazan Yavuz, Senior Research Manager, Data and Analytics at the research firm IDC. “Indeed, this good performance came while the majority of regions elsewhere in the world had declines in shipments in the quarter.

“The growth in the region was a result of new model releases and brands’ focus on strengthening their foothold. In addition, shipments from major brands did not experience any supply constraints.”

iPhone 15s from India?
Apple recently launched manufacturing/assembling operations for its iPhones in India, widening this side of the business beyond China. This could mean 'Made in India' iPhone 15s could be landing in the UAE.

So, will iPhone get a blockbuster response in UAE?

Apple retailer sources say the initial spike in demand for a new model comes ‘in-built’. “It’s like a blockbuster movie release – fans will ensure heavy action in the first few weeks,” said a retailer. “It’s the same with Apple and the iPhone.”

According to Asthana, “There are good reasons especially for an Apple loyalist to upgrade, given the new Titanium casing (on the Pros), The (different) USB charging, and bumped up camera features, a brighter screen and the new action button. There are incremental changes that will appeal to existing iPhone buyers waiting to upgrade.”

A lot of the iPhone 14 buying in the UAE happened since the start of the year after supply limitations during the crucial Q4-22 period. Retailers are hoping with the new launch, shipments will proceed more smoothly, and likely setting up a solid round of sales through the Black Friday (in late November) and end-of-year holiday buying phase.

Recently, grey imports into the UAE and Gulf are on an increasing trend, resulting in an influx of devices in 4-6 weeks after the release of latest flagships. This has a downward impact on smartphone pricing. But the unique consumer segments for flagship phones are capable of keeping demand strong in the UAE

- Ramazan Yavuz of IDC

Some market watchers however doubt whether buying beyond the Apple fan base will happen that quickly.

“The iPhone 15 camera features are better and the pricing (outside of the Pro Max) is a constant,” said one market source. “Will these be enough to get them buying the 15? Plus, there are some heavily discounted deals available on the iPhone 14.”

UAE tech retailers aren't thinking that far ahead - for now, all their focus will be on September 15, which is when the bookings start, and on September 22, when actual sales launch. Then, there are many still using their the iPhone 12 or the 13.

They can always be convinced to trade up - to the iPhone 15, obviously.  

Apple stock's reaction to the 15
Investors holding Apple stock responded with a lukewarm reaction to the latest iPhone launch, with the stock down 1.71 per cent last evening. The stock had been under the weather in the last fortnight after reports emerged of the Chinese authorities requiring staff in government departments not to bring iPhones to office. It was enough to wipe away $200 billion from its market cap.

Even then, year-to-date (and after yesterday's 1.7 per cent drop), the stock is still up 40 per cent.