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Talking phones
The GCC smartphone market is crowded, shifting and clambering to keep up with the frenetic pace at which technology is evolving. In an exclusive interview, OPPO MEA’s recently appointed president, Ethan Xue, reveals how the brand is taking on the challenges to stay ahead
AARTI NAGRAJ

The ubiquity of smartphones is hard to miss – whether in a boardroom, an elevator, the train or at home when watching TV or having a meal. We have become dependent on phones for everything from telling the time, setting reminders and entertaining us to informing us about the latest news. And of course, for calling and messaging – the original purpose that mobile phones served.

The rapid rise of the smartphone market has also seen the emergence of a plethora of manufacturers – all seeking to grab a slice of the pie. New device launches were hotly anticipated events in the initial heady years of smartphones, with the grey market thriving in places like the UAE where the phones were not immediately available. While those days are now long gone, and the awe-factor has faded a bit, the need to innovate has only become stronger for the brands that have survived, outpaced the competition and remained relevant.

The need to innovate has been the driving principle for smartphone manufacturer OPPO, reveals Ethan Xue, the recently appointed president for the Middle East and Africa at the company. “We have invested heavily in research and development, and we now have 10 R&D centres around the world,” he says.

OPPO, which launched its first mobile phone in 2008, currently has a presence in over 40 countries and regions and employs over 40,000 people. Its investment in R&D this year equals approximately $1.46bn, according to Xue.

“Earlier this year we started work on a new research and development centre in Chang’an Town, in Guangdong Province, China, which will accelerate our R&D capabilities. The new facilities, along with the company’s existing R&D centres, will form a robust research engine to support OPPO’s continued innovation for the emerging era of intelligent connectivity.”

The 5G factor

It is impossible to talk tech today without mentioning 5G. The new technology is set to revolutionise the smartphone market, with research firm Gartner estimating that by 2020, 5G-capable phones will represent 6 per cent of total sales of phones.

While several phone manufacturers released 5G-enabled smartphones in the first half of 2019, they are looking to introduce more affordable 5G-enabled phones in 2020 to improve slowing smartphone sales, the report said.

“As 5G service coverage increases, the user experience will improve and prices will decrease. The leap will occur in 2023 when we expect 5G phones to account for 51 per cent of phone sales,” said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner.

All the GCC countries are expected to launch 5G mobile services in the next two years, with the UAE aiming to deploy 5G by 2020.

Regionally, OPPO was among the first brands to launch a 5G smartphone in the GCC with the Reno 5G. The device promises to offer “an accelerated, low-latency communication experience” which will offer users the capability to “download an HD movie over a coffee break” and “live stream a high-resolution video in a packed-out concert venue with no lag”.

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