DUBAI: The MENA region has witnessed high rates of smartphone adoption, but take-up and usage vary because of unreliable infrastructure and payment options, a local media agency has suggested.

But this means the mobile phone has not achieved its potential and there are ample opportunities for brands to take advantage of growth in the market, according to the Dubai arm of global communications network Initiative.

As reported by, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have a very high proportion of early smartphone users, at 73% and 59% respectively, but consumers face a number of practical difficulties.

"The UAE and Saudi Arabia had a very high number of early adopters, but also there are few reliable mobile shopping websites or payment applications in these markets," explained Sarah Ivey, global chief strategy officer at Initiative.

She said infrastructure availability and network reliability also influenced whether consumers adopted smartphones or not.

This was pertinent because, across the region, 75% of smartphone users have a branded social app on their devices which 62% use daily and half check several times a day – representing a significant opportunity for advertisers.

Ivey also revealed that 40% of smartphone users in Saudi Arabia used their devices to shop from home while consumers in the UAE were more than twice as likely as their Saudi counterparts to use price comparison sites at home.

"This is an age of rapid change for telecommunications, with new patterns of behaviour constantly supplanting ones that have only just been established," said Ramzy Abouchacra, regional managing director at Initiative.

"While this is exciting, it is also challenging for industry operators wanting to reach an audience," he added.

Data sourced from; additional content by Warc staff