The Middle East has often been touted as a strong and key market for BlackBerry. However, retailers are painting a different picture, claiming the company has been overtaken by Samsung.
“In terms of revenue, it’s a little over half it was for last year,” said Ashish Panjabi, COO for electronics retailer Jacky’s, based in the UAE. “At the same time last year [BlackBerry] was the number-two brand for us. Now they’re number three. The primary gainer has been Samsung,” he added.
Panjabi suggested that other retailers have likely seen a drop in BlackBerry sales, despite the launch of BlackBerry 10. Neelesh Bhatnagar, the CEO of Middle East electronics chain Emax, confirmed it is a growing trend.
“BlackBerry over the last couple of years has definitely been on the slide downward, losing market share to the iPhone and Samsung,” said Bhatnagar.
“Within Emax we have seen BlackBerry’s share go down from 19 percent to 12.5 percent [of overall smartphone sales],” Bhatnagar added, citing UAE figures from the first half of 2012 compared with the first six months of this year.
Bhatnagar believes part of the exodus from BlackBerry is partly due to the email and free messaging are common on other platforms. “The key features of the BlackBerry are no longer unique,” he said. “People are deserting BlackBerry and moving on to other platforms… The trend will further accelerate.”
However, BlackBerry feels very happy with how the sales of BlackBerry 10 are doing in the region. “We have been very happy with how strongly our BlackBerry 10 smartphone portfolio is selling across the region, particularly with the recent launch of the BlackBerry Q5 smartphone,” said Nick Horton, BlackBerry’s managing director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“In May 2013, BlackBerry was the number-two selling smartphone vendor in the UAE and number-three in KSA,” Horton added.