Smartphone Growth Surges in Middle East by 23%

By Aman Bansal, Flurry Analyst

The Middle East is an ethnically and culturally diverse trans-continental region which includes countries in Western Asia, as well as Egypt and Turkey. The most populous countries in the Middle East are Egypt, Iran and Turkey, while Saudi Arabia has the largest area. In this report, we review the smartphone market in the Middle East in order to better understand growth opportunities and consumer preferences in the region. 

Flurry Analytics is used in over 1 million mobile applications worldwide, providing insights from 2 billion devices per month. Let’s begin by reviewing the distribution of mobile devices across the Middle East by country.

Share of Active Smartphones by Country in the Middle East

In the chart above, we list each country in the Middle East by its percentage of active smartphone users as of January 2021. Unfortunately, due to political constraints, we are unable to report on app usage from Iran and Syria. Iran is one of the larger countries in the region and its population makes up 21% of the total population in the Middle East. According to a recent report from Statista, Iran has the largest number of smartphone users in the region, which means that, if included, Iran would likely top this list. 

Turkey is the top country on our list in terms of the smartphone users in the Middle East region. Turkey accounts for 28% of smartphone users and 26% of the region's population, followed by Egypt (23% of smartphone users, 29% of population) and Saudi Arabia (14% of smartphone users, 10% of population).

Next, let’s review the countries experiencing the largest smartphone growth year-over-year.

Year-over-Year Change in New Device Activations

As seen in the chart above, the Middle East region saw a strong increase in device activations, growing on average 23% year-over-year. This growth was primarily driven by the larger markets such as Iraq and Egypt that continued to grow despite their huge existing user base. Among the reasons growth is so high across these countries is low existing smartphone penetration, which stands at 20%, and 28% for Iraq and Egypt respectively. Their relative market sizes and growth rates provide lucrative opportunities for app developers to monetize and grow their own user bases. Declines seen for UAE and Qatar in mobile device activations are likely due to their very high smartphone penetration rates of 81% and 75% respectively, meaning a limited scope for growth. 

Next, let’s review the platform preference in the Middle East.

Platform Preference in Middle East

In the chart above, we list each country by its share of Android devices in blue compared to iOS devices in gray. While the average Android share in the Middle East is 78%, it varies considerably amongst different countries. The countries with the highest GDP per capita, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and UAE, have the lowest percentage of Android penetration, ranging from 57% to 66%, and therefore a high share of iOS users. Yemen with the highest share of Android devices (98%) also happens to have the lowest GDP per capita in the region and very low share of iOS users. This wide variation speaks to the diversity within the Middle East which app developers should keep in mind as they vie for success in these markets.

Next, let’s take a look at market share by smartphone manufacturers in the Middle East.

Smartphone Market Share by Manufacturer in Middle East

In the chart above, we list the top 5 smartphone manufacturers in the Middle East as of January 2021. We then combine the remaining manufacturers into “Others,” represented by the gray slice of the pie. Samsung is the clear leader controlling 39% of all smartphones in the Middle Eastern market, followed by Huawei at 18%, Apple at 18%, Xiaomi at 6%, and OPPO at 4%. From 2020 to 2021, Samsung lost 2 percentage points, Apple lost 4 percentage points, whereas Huawei remained flat and Xiaomi and OPPO gained 3 percentage points and 1 percentage points respectively. In the ever-evolving smartphone market, Chinese manufacturers are gaining popularity in the Middle East at the expense of global behemoths, Samsung and Apple.

Finally, let’s review the most popular device models in the Middle East.

Top Smartphone Models in Middle East

In the chart above, we list the 10 most popular smartphone devices in the Middle East as of January 2021 by the number of active devices in the market. We list Samsung models in green, Apple models in orange, and Huawei models in purple. Huawei’s Y9 Prime takes the top spot with 1.9% of market share, followed by Samsung’s Galaxy On Nxt and Apple’s iPhone 11. Apple smartphones feature 5 of the top 10 spots, followed by Samsung and Huawei taking the remaining 3 and 2 spots respectively. Combined, these top 10 devices account for only 15% of the region’s total market share, further demonstrating the fragmented smartphone market in the region. 

With a 23% average growth rate of new smartphone activations, the Middle East is one of the world’s fastest growing regions in terms of smartphone growth. Considering low smartphone penetration rates in several of the region’s countries, we expect growth to continue and we imagine app developers will follow. Make sure you follow us on the Flurry Blog and on Twitter and LinkedIn for more mobile industry insights. 

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