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Just a fling? Blackberry remains on top…but for how long?

Just a fling? Blackberry remains on top…but for how long?

Nokia's underrated staying power is highlighted in a recent research that has Jacqueline Gomes also thinking about whether Blackberry will be able to keep its momentum in the region.

July 25, 2011 11:27 by



When it comes to smartphones, the BlackBerry is apparently the most frequently used brand in the UAE, a survey released exclusively to ‘The National’ shows. Capturing more than half of all votes in a poll of more than 2,600 individuals from the MENA region, BlackBerry topped the UAE list, followed by Nokia with 24 percent.

Blackberry’s ranking is attributed to RIM’s popular messaging service, “BBM”, which allows subscribers to send each other text messages without additional cost above a monthly data plan. According to RIM, 96 percent of BlackBerry owners in the UAE use the BBM service.

Of course, there’s also the recent TRA (Telecommunications Regulatory Authority) move to allow access to Blackberry’s App World, boosting the number of mobile apps downloaded and used in the region.

Most interesting in the article is that Nokia remains more popular than Apple’s iPhone ranges in this region. It was the second-most used mobile phone brand in the UAE, and first in the broader MENA region. Nokia’s staying power across the MENA region is a decidedly underrated outcome of this research, considering over the past five years it has been fighting for a place in the spotlight among strong (and decidedly loud) competition from RIM and Apple.

Apple’s iPhone was the third-most used mobile in the Emirates, as well as the MENA region overall, easily beating other big brands such as Samsung and Sony Ericsson.

This figure stood out despite some individual retailers saying the iPhone is their best-selling mobile with the introduction of the white iPhone 4 causing sales to rocket.

NOT ALWAYS SMOOTH SAILING

The relationship between BlackBerry(RIM) and the UAE was not always so smooth. Just last year, in August more than a million BlackBerry users in Saudi Arabia and THE UAE had their services cut over ‘national security’ fears. The issue? the data was encrypted and sent to offshore servers, which could not be tracked locally. This resulted in the BBM, email and web browser services getting suspended temporarily. They were given till October 11 to work something out, and soon on October 8 an agreement was worked out but the terms were never discussed publicly.

In May came the second episode of the UAE-BB saga, with the “limited services plan” where only businesses with 20 or more mobile subscriptions would be allowed to use high-security accounts, preventing individuals from using the most private data services offered by BlackBerry. But then, surprisingly, just a few days later RIM announced the launch of the “BlackBerry App World service” in the UAE. This month Etisalat partnered up with Smartphone company “EMS” to develop a new Mobile Application Store for Blackberry customers, “The Zantel Blackberry App Store” will give customers access to a wide range of content including entertainment, games, Instant Messaging, social networking, news, weather, etc.

Considering the tech-savvy generation of the current 13-25 year olds, is it really the launch of BlackBerry App World or the BBM that has them all hooked? If so, with the rocky relationship that UAE has had with RIM, will BB fans stay loyal or will they all scatter when a new App comes from another brand? Will the relationship between BlackBerry and the consumers blossom or is it just a surge that will soon die down?



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