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Dubai: With 5G and foldable smartphones to be launched soon, will it make a big impact in UAE sales?

Nabila Popal, senior research manager for mobile phones at International Data Corporation, told Gulf News that 5G and foldable smartphones are not going to make a big impact on market size in the UAE this year — mainly due to the price factor and they will not be driving huge volumes as consumers are becoming more conscious of their spending.

“Consumers will see something different surely after a long time — but this region’s recent consumer spending behaviour is not likely to absorb the price. 5G phones are expected more in the second half of this year but not again in major volumes as this technology will likely focus only on flagship devices,” she said.

Even though China’s Royole launched the first commercial foldable smartphone with a flexible display — FlexPai — last year for more than $1,300 (Dh4,775), big brands such as Samsung will be launching it on February 20 and Huawei on February 24 at Mobile World Congress while LG, Xiaomi, Oppo and Motorola later this year.

If rumours are true, Samsung’s foldable phone is expected to cost more than $1,800 (Dh6,606) and availability in March.

Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner, told Gulf News that a sizeable volume of foldable phone sales could happen by end of 2020 or in 2021 while it could be less than one per cent of the total global sales this year.

She said that vendors are trying to find something that is more revolutionary and bring back some interest in a weak smartphone market.

“It could potentially be the next big thing. In the beginning, we are going to see some initial models and these models are not going to have a big impact on sales this year,” she said.

But, she said that these models will have a big impact on the brands as vendors need to showcase these technology is good for the value of the brand. However, she said that these models are going to be pricey and “we are going to see different form factors [display sizes]. First models will test the concept”.

Moreover, she said that there are challenges also such as reliability, usability and have the developers embrace the new form factors for fitting the apps.

Google is working with big brands to scale the apps to the new form factor. “Smartphone users also have some expectations regarding usability on the phone. They expect the phones to be reliable, open and fold the phones many times a day. Millennials open their phones hundreds of times a day. Therefore, these foldable phones have to very reliable and usable and give value to the users,” she said.

According to TrendForce’s latest report, the production volume of 5G models would only be 5 million units globally this year, a penetration rate of 0.4 per cent.

UAE smartphone market to be flat this year

The UAE smartphone market fell by 15 per cent last year to 360,000 units, an industry expert said.

“The UAE smartphone market is expected to flatten this year despite the market dropping in size for the last four quarters this year due to value-added tax and overall weak consumer sentiment,” said Nabila Popal, senior research manager at International Data Corporation for mobile phones.

Moreover, she said that consumer’s disposable incomes have shrunk and they are holding on to the money apart from the lack of major innovation on the devices from the consumer point of view.