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Smartphone Usage Soars Across the Middle East and Africa

Lower-priced smartphones should fuel growth in the coming years

According to data released in March 2014 by Ipsos MediaCT, smartphone usage in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) leapt between 2012 and 2013. Looking at smartphone users in Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the study found that, with the exception of Egypt, smartphone penetration in each country rose by at least 11 percentage points.

The most impressive growth was in Lebanon, which saw the number of smartphone users jump by 75% year over year. Penetration was highest in Saudi Arabia (79%) and the UAE (72%). Meanwhile, smartphone usage in Egypt was extremely low, with 6% of the population using such a device in 2013, up just 1 percentage point from 2012.

eMarketer estimates impressive growth in the number of smartphone users in MEA; however, our smartphone penetration figures for the region as a whole are much lower than the numbers from Ipsos MediaCT, likely due to different nations included by eMarketer as well as different methodologies. For this year, we expect the number of smartphone users in the region to jump 33.2% to reach 156.4 million. However, this will represent just over one-quarter of mobile phone users and 11.3% of the entire MEA population.

One trend that fuels smartphone uptake is the availability of lower-priced phones, and based on data released by the International Data Corporation, cheaper smartphones will continue to enter the market in MEA over the next few years. The November 2013 data forecast that the average selling price of smartphones in MEA would drop from $338 to $230 between 2013 and 2017.

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