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Smartphones dominate the Saudi Market

4 minute read | June 2014

Recommendation drives Smartphone Purchases

RIYADH / JEDDAH,  June 24th 2014 –
Smartphone adoption and its influence in the lives of people, continues to grow at an exponential rate. In Saudi Arabia, a staggering 67 percent of the population above 16 years use a smartphone according to a recent study from Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and insights into what consumers watch and buy. This percentage is even higher among Youth (73%) and with a large population under the age of 15, Saudi Arabia will remain a key growth market for smartphone makers.

“Globally, youth are known to be early adopters and trend-setters. For most brands and technologies, an endorsement by the youth is a strong indicator of the future prospects of the service,” so Aditya Gokhale, Executive Director Telecom at Nielsen. 


The aspects that consumers consider before making the device purchase include ‘Ease of Use’ (which is reflection of the OS) and the ‘Screen Size’. Surprisingly, price doesn’t come up as among the top stated considerations. This suggests that consumers are willing to pay a reasonable price if the brand is right as well as has the right features.  The key to brand choice in Saudi Arabia however is ‘Recommendation’. 23 percent of the consumers claim the handset they bought was based on the recommendation by friends and family. “The implication for brands is massive and presents itself as opportunity. If a device, brand or model, can strike the right chord with an ‘influential’ group of people, it could well take the field from the left wing”, said Gokhale.


The majority of smartphones used in the KSA were made by Samsung (44%). Apple’s iPhones are used by 23 percent of smartphone owners in the KSA, followed by Blackberry, which represents 19 percent of the smartphone market. Meanwhile, Nokia’s market share is at 11percent which has clearly declined given that the Nokia share of the ‘previous device owned’ from the same study was as high as 38%.

Apple seems to own the mind space around ‘style’, ‘availability of apps’ and ‘accessories’, whereas Samsung relies on its technical prowess. Nokia is popular for ‘value for money’, ‘battery life’ and ‘ease of use’. The physical ‘qwerty keypad’ of the Blackberry is its stand out feature.


Smartphone users in Saudi Arabia are warming up to mobile ads. The main source of mobile ad recall for now remains the SMS based advertising though other mechanisms like ‘in videos’ and ‘in app’ are beginning to make an impact. Marketers will have to continue their efforts on both investing in and finding creative ways to draw consumer attention to advertising on their mobile device.

The next frontier is m-commerce. Though still in its nascent stage (only 10 percent of Saudi Arabia smartphone users have used their device for an actual purchase), the future is promising as a lot more consumers actively use their devices to aid their shopping – in the form of search, price comparisons and reviews. 

“Consumers and their smartphone adoption have changed the dynamic all over the world and Saudi Arabia is no exception. The opportunity this presents to service providers is immense as they look to maximize data revenues, get in to OTT partnerships or even build content. For device makers, staying fresh, relevant and most importantly popular will dictate fortunes. Exciting times for all and the sense is we have only just started!” concluded Aditya Gokhale.

About the Nielsen Smartphone Insights

Nielsen Smartphone Insights is a syndicated survey providing detailed understanding of smartphone and feature phone users and revealing the challenges and opportunities that exist as the mobile landscape continues to evolve. The fieldwork for Saudi Arabia and UAE was conducted in Q1’2014. It was conducted through face-2-face interviews.
Saudi Arabia:  A total of 1791 contacts were made to know the incidence of smartphone. Final sample achieved covered both smartphone and non-smartphone users.
United Arab Emirates:  A total of 1505 contacts were made to know the incidence of smartphone. Final sample achieved covered both smartphone and non-smartphone users.

About Nielsen

Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA, and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit