Smartphone usage in the MENA region is increasing, with almost 70% of Smartphone users expected to upgrade their phone in the next 12 months, according to the AppsArabia Mobile Report – MENA. The report has stated that 82% of customers without a Smartphone want one, and 54% of them will have their first smart phone in the coming 12 months. The report also indicates that the GCC has the highest incidence of multiple Smartphone at almost 41% of the population (34% having 2 smartphones and 7% having 3 or more). This has led to a commensurate increase in mobile applications development and use.
Mohammed Johmani, CEO and Founder of O2 interactive (O2i) said in Dubai: “Smartphone and tablet usage in the GCC is on the rise, which means many mosre app are also being created, downloaded, bought and used by millions of users. 7 out of 10 Smartphone users use an app at least once every day and 35% of smart phone users who download apps frequently have bought at least one app in the last 30 days. This makes it very evident that customer engagement and organizational communication will both soon be occurring extensively through apps accessed through Smartphone and tablet devices in the very near future.”
“Tablets are becoming a trend in the GCC in general and in the UAE in particular. Consumers are bringing their tablets to the workplace and using them for their jobs. Salespeople are using them in pitch presentations, while marketers are formulating their campaigns around them,” he said.
The UAE government has realized this, and public sector entities and departments are increasingly utilizing mobile and social media applications to engage and interact with their customers, improving response times and opening channels of communication. This has also spurred interest in apps development, with recent statistics looking at the first three quarters of 2011 showing that the UAE hosts almost 60 percent of the mobile application development in the Middle East region.
“The widespread use of a new generation of smart phones, the increasing computing time spent daily, and the well-developed ICT infrastructure in the UAE, has been a major factor behind the rise of mobile and social media apps in the country,” said Johmani.“The success of apps in the entertainment, music and games industries has motivated government entities to complement web-based services with mobile apps.”
Currently, almost 30 government mobile applications are available in the UAE, and are proving to be beneficial in providing better services to customers faster. The trend of using mobile apps to transact and engage with businesses will soon overcome desktop computing. In the next 2 years, it is expected that customers in the UAE will be able to pay all their bills and request services such as money transfers through their mobile phones.”
“We have been very active in the last quarter developing unique mobile applications and interactive social media games for our customers”, said Johmani. “Our Interactive arm, O2i is working on many projects for government and private sectors. A good example is the SCAD Census challenge that we launched earlier on Facebook, and the Children’s city’s games that were done for Dubai municipality.”
Yet, while apps are in high demand, and the infrastructure for app development is slowly being created, Johmani believes there is a dearth of investors currently willing to support the new market, which means that opportunities are being missed out on.
“The concept of stores such as App Store and Android Market has been growing very impressively in the GCC region,” added Johmani. “Unfortunately, the investors in the Arab world have not paid much attention to this rising era yet. We have ourselves tried to partner with investors many times, have noticed they are only ready to invest once the market is relatively mature. In the western world, for instance in the US, investors had leapt onboard far earlier in the conceptual stages because of their understanding of the sector’s potential.”
O2i, the interactive arm of O2 Network is a Dubai-based digital marketing solution company that provides one stop solution for digital requirements. The company has partnered with several successful clients indifferent industries with a focus on high quality, rapid delivery and excellent performance. O2i specializes in web design and development, search engine optimization, social media marketing, Facebook and mobile apps, email marketing and online advertising.