Smartphone sales boom in Middle East and Africa as sales price goes up 10%

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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GfK reports smartphone market continues to grow as Samsung unit sets up deal to give e-loans to new purchasers

The Middle East and Africa are showing the fastest rates of growth for smartphone sales, while prices are also going up 11% a year.

Meanwhile Californian company Juvo has formed an alliance with Samsung’s software and services unit to boost smartphone sales in emerging markets.

The latest figures from market research company GfK show that western Europe and China both showed a 3% fall in unit sales in the fourth quarter of 2017 compared with the same period in 2016. Unit sales in developed Asia went down 9% and in emerging Asia down 1%.

But the rest of the world showed a healthy growth, from 8% in the Middle East and Africa, to 7% in central and eastern Europe and 6% in both Latin America and North America.

Arndt Polifke, global director of point-of-sale telecom research at GfK, said: “Sales value increased by 11% year-on-year in the quarter, which is exceptional growth for such a mature technology category. This came as the proliferation of smartphones with larger and bezel-less displays incentivised consumers to purchase more expensive devices.”

Average sales price for smartphones went up by 10% to $363, found GfK, and the price rise and the volume rise meant total sales of smartphones in the quarter were $144 billion, a rise of 10% on the fourth quarter of 2016.

Value growth in China was “stellar”, said GfK, at 17% year on year, despite a fall in unit sales. Western Europe showed the same growth in sales value, while the value of sales in central and eastern Europe went up a remarkable 28%.

Sales in central and eastern Europe are “expected to grow in 2018, with GfK forecasting a 6% increase in demand, driven by Russia and Ukraine”.

The Juvo deal is with Samsung Next, which focuses on product development, investment, M&A and partnerships. The aim is to offer identity scoring to provide suitable unbanked people with loans to buy smartphones.

“Juvo’s sophisticated data science technology identifies and qualifies users for smartphone migration and handset financing,” said the company, “a first for most prepaid subscribers.”

Juvo already offers customers of some operators loans to top up their accounts. Patrick Chang, principal of Samsung Next Ventures, said: “Juvo’s impressive traction from mobile operators and consumers offers an opportunity for us to tap into the next billion customers through more comprehensive financial inclusion and accessibility.”

Steve Polsky, founder and CEO of Juvo, said: “This new collaboration with Samsung NEXT allows us to further realise our vision by being among the first to integrate financial identity into a hardware device and, with it, offer unprecedented access to greater financial services.”

Juvo pointed out that as users migrate to smartphones, mobile operators typically see an increase in data consumption by an average of 30% per subscriber.