IPhones sell fast in Abu Dhabi to replace BlackBerry
Mobile phone retailers in the capital say sales of iPhones have more than doubled as consumers replace their BlackBerrys ahead of a possible suspension of the service by the telecommunications regulator.
Sales of BlackBerrys have slowed to a trickle while other smartphone devices such as the iPhone 4 have flown off the shelves at Abu Dhabi’s malls and along Defence Road, home to a host of mobile phone retailers.
“People are now coming to ask about buying other smartphones. We are actually out of iPhones and iPads right now. We have sold all we had,” said Isam Ayash, the manager of Al Asala Mobile Phones.
BlackBerry’s encrypted services, operated by the Canadian manufacturer Research In Motion (RIM), may be suspended by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) on October 11.
The TRA has cited social, judicial and national security concerns behind its request to monitor BlackBerry messages. RIM has declined the TRA’s request.
While the TRA has said its decision is final, it has also said it is “open to discussions” with RIM to reach an acceptable solution that can be implemented before the suspension begins.
The telecoms companies Etisalat and du have announced several alternative plans that would allow their customers to keep their BlackBerryswithout the smartphones’ proprietary messaging services.
But many subscribers are not taking chances and are buying new handsets.
Omar al Zaabi, the manager of Paris Phone on Defence Road, said he sold about 30 iPhone 4s in the past week, double his normal turnover.
He did not sell a single BlackBerry last week, he said, but had sold 50 before the suspension was announced.
“Before, nobody was really asking for the iPhone, but now more of them are selling than the BlackBerry because nobody wants it anymore,” Mr al Zaabi said.
The iPhone 4 is scheduled to be made available by Etisalat and du in September, but it is readily available on the grey market.
A market still exists for BlackBerrys, as visitors mainly from the Philippines and African nations take advantage of discount BlackBerrys.
“Visitors try to take advantage of the discounted price here and buy these expensive gadgets for themselves or for business at cheaper rates,” said a clerk at Axiom Telecom in Al Wahda Mall.
Handset makers are also capitalising on the demand among UAE customers looking to replace their BlackBerrys with other devices.
Samsung plans to triple the number of “experience zones” – kiosks inside electronics stores that showcase smartphones – across the UAE from 20 to 60 over the next two months, said Sandeep Saihgal, the general manager for Samsung’s regional telecoms department.
“We’re working on having more experience zones at the retail front,” Mr Saihgal said. “It helps sell more phones because an ad in the newspaper can only create awareness for it. But when you play with it, the wow factor is there.”
On Sunday, officials at Saudi Arabia’s telecoms regulators said that RIM had installed three servers enabling the country’s mobile operators to test whether monitoring would work as a means of averting a similar block on BlackBerry encrypted instant messaging.
Saudi Arabia has about 700,000 BlackBerry users, and the UAE has about 500,000.
The TRA and RIM declined to comment.