The overall mobile phone market of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region* experienced quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) growth of 8.2% in Q4 2020 to total 5.38 million units, according to newly released research from International Data Corporation (IDC). Apple posted a remarkable 55.7% QoQ increase in Gulf countries shipments in Q4 2020 following the release of its iPhone 12 line of devices.
The firm’s latest Quarterly Global Mobile Phone Tracker reveals that smartphone shipments grew 2.3% QoQ to 4.26 million units, while feature phone shipments increased 38.3% to total 1.12 million units. In terms of value, the smartphone market totaled $1.62 billion in Q4 2020, up 39.5% QoQ. Meanwhile, the feature phone market’s value grew 22.2% over the same period to reach $19.2 million.
Q4 2020 saw most GCC countries attempting to return to some state of normality, with borders re-opening to regular travel — especially in the UAE, where the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out was beginning to take place in earnest. Although consumer spending remained focused on essentials, there was a release of pent-up demand, particularly for iOS devices.
Saudi Arabia accounted for 49.4% of all smartphones shipped within the GCC region in Q4 2020. However, the Kingdom experienced an overall QoQ decline in shipments, with component and supply shortages impacting the lower-end devices of Android vendors. The UAE accounted for 26.1% of the region’s smartphone shipments and recorded QoQ growth thanks to the strong performance of Apple’s new releases and mid-range models from brands like Samsung, Oppo, and Vivo, which were not impacted to the same extent by component shortages.
“Apple enjoyed strong demand for the iPhone 12 series in Q4 2020, while its iPhone 11 series continued to perform well in the region,” says Akash Balachandran, a senior research analyst at IDC. “Shortages in the supply of both the iPhone 12 and certain other models curtailed the maximum growth we could have seen from Apple in Q4 2020.”
Samsung saw shortages of certain key models, leading to a QoQ decline in shipments of 4.1%. The majority of Samsung’s model portfolio continues to be made up of low-end and midrange devices, leading to a decline in the vendor’s overall value share. Supply shortages saw Xiaomi post a very slight 0.9% QoQ decline in shipments. The vendor ranked third in both units and value after Samsung and Apple, having effectively taken Huawei’s place in the smartphone market.
Looking ahead, the GCC smartphone market is forecast to experience a minor 0.7% QoQ decline in shipments in Q1 2021. “Supply constraints will likely continue to hamper growth in the region due to chipset and component shortages across most smartphone brands in the first half year,” says Ramazan Yavuz, a senior research manager at IDC, in a statement. “However, with supply returning to normal and with the vaccine rollout expected to significantly reduce the possibility of additional lockdowns and spikes in COVID-19 cases, the market is set to see growth return toward the second half of the year.
“On 5G front, 5G devices accounted for 16.5% of all smartphone shipments across the GCC in Q4 2020. Significant growth is expected in the shipments of 5G-enabled devices in 2021, particularly as they increasingly become available in mid-tier price bands among Android devices.”
MacDailyNews Take: More evidence that were are only in the early stages of a multi-year iPhone super cycle!
*Tthe Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region was established in 1981 and its 6 members are the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Bahrain.