BlackBerry’s strong presence in the region allows it to offer highly competitively priced packages compared with Apple. Image Credit: Francois Nel /Gulf News archive

Dubai BlackBerry maker Research in Motion is hoping that robust demand in the UAE will make up for plunging global sales of the once-essential businessman's smart phone.

Analysts have told Gulf News that RIM just might be on to something, with the BlackBerry messaging service still outpacing Apple's iMessage, and relatively affordable.

"BlackBerry will have a bigger market share in the UAE than Apple primarily due to the widespread popularity of BlackBerry Messenger," said Hamza Salim, senior research analyst for handsets, IDC Middle East, Turkey and Africa.

He said BlackBerry's strong presence in the region allows it to offer highly competitively priced packages compared with Apple. BlackBerry and Apple hold greater market share in this region than Android compared to the rest of the world.

He said Apple's iMessaging service will take time to seriously compete with BBM.

According to Ashraf Fawakherji, General Manager, Telecommunications Group, Samsung Gulf Electronics, the outlook for the smartphone industry is very positive this year. The growth in the industry is fuelled by competitive offerings from various manufacturers.

"Consumers are very tech savvy and demand the latest and most innovative products. Coupled with factors such as high internet penetration rates, the growing need for mobility, connectivity and an increased consumer spending in the area of digital devices, the Gulf continues to be a key region for the global consumer electronics segment," he said.

Total handsets sold in the UAE touched 4.1 million units compared to 4.2 million in 2010.

Out of 4.1 million, smartphone sales touched 2.2 million in 2011 compared to 1.7 million in 2010.

By 2016, market share of feature phones will drop drastically and smartphone's share will increase dramatically. Right now smartphones hold 55 per cent of the market and feature phones hold 45 per cent.

"Android has really increased its market share in the UAE. Microsoft needs to bring down the prices of Windows OS phones and increase the number of apps on its store to make an impact on the market," Salim said.

In terms of the OS, Android will increase its market share from 19.40 per cent in 2011 to 25.10 per cent in 2012 while iOS will increase its market share from 3.60 per cent to 6.40 per cent this year and Windows will increase theirs from 0.70 per cent to 18.70 per cent this year.

At the same time, the BlackBerry market share will shrink from 42.7 per cent to 29 per cent this year while Symbian will shrink from 31.50 per cent to 15.50 per cent.

Near Field Communications (NFC)-integrated services will gain momentum this year, he said.

Etisalat has formed a partnership with MasterCard to launch NFC-based mobile payment services via BlackBerry handsets in the UAE.

Consumers will make payments by tapping their BlackBerry at MasterCard PayPass terminals in the UAE. The limit for PayPass is Dh180. The UAE is the "only country to offer this facility in the region," he said.

Near Field Communications-integrated devices are being made available by smartphone vendors, and to leverage the technology, Salim said.