Report: Mobile Apps usage in the MENA region

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A report released earlier this month by AppsArabia and Real Opinions gives some great insight about the MENA regions smartphone usage. The research which was sponsored by RIM, which mainly aims to increase and support the developers in the region.

The research which was conducted online in both English (23%) and Arabic (77%) with almost 3,000 respondents and contains a vast amount of information regarding the region which should interest all developers and mobile entrepreneurs. Below is a summary of the report’s most important findings:

  1. 49% of smartphone users expect to upgrade in the next six months, 70% in the next 12 months
  2. 82% who don’t have a smartphone want one and 54% expect to get their first one in the next 12 months
  3. 95% of smartphone users have apps installed
  4. Smartphone users have an average of 29 apps installed, while 40% have 10 or less
  5. 51% of smartphone users use apps all day long
  6. 73% like downloading apps that make their life easier and 57% are interested in game apps
  7. 82% of smartphone users with apps download at least once a week
  8. On average, smartphone users download 6 apps each month
  9. In the coming 12 months, 53% of all smartphone users claim they will be buying apps (30% said they wouldn’t and 17% were not sure)
  10. In the coming 12 months,, 24% of all smartphone users claim they will spend more than USD 50 on apps
  11. 58% would trade their usage data and receive targeted advertising in return for free app
  12. 52% recommend apps to friends while 26% give a simple rating score for those they don’t know to see
  13. 33% find out about new apps from their friends while most are discovered doing a search on their smartphone (38%)
  14. Just 14% would evaluate an app based upon general media coverage
  15. 62% of all smartphone users surveyed in the Middle East prefer apps to be in English while 39% of users who understand Arabic prefer apps to be in English.

Below is a deeper look into the report:


Country of origin for respondents (Top 5):

  1. Egypt 14%
  2. Saudi Arabia 9%
  3. Morocco 9%
  4. India 8%
  5. Lebanon 6%


  1. 21 or younger 16%
  2. 22 – 35 56%
  3. 36 or older 25%


  1. 73% male
  2. 27% female

Smartphone Brand

smartphone brand image

For now Nokia seems to be the clear leader, however strong gains in the region have been made by Apple, Blackberry and other devices with Android operating systems.

Number of smartphones per user

Number of smartphones image

 Which Brand is used mostly for Apps?

App Phones

I haven’t used a Nokia phone for a while now even though I used to consider them the best. I find this chart somewhat surprising because I never expected that apps on Nokia’s were popular. I guess this could be due to the number of people with Nokia smartphones in the region. I wonder how many of these apps are paid apps?

Application categories of interest

App category interestVideo, Books and religious applications seem to have more popularity in interest in North Africa than the remaining part of the MENA. And photography and communication applications have a clear overall lead throughout the region.

Application categories in terms of use

App categories useUsers in the MENA are generally using communication and social networking apps the most, I added these two charts to point out that even though users might be interested more in photography apps than social networking however that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will use them more. Just goes to show the power of social apps and how people always prefer to be connected with their circles.

Why do users download apps?

Why do users download mobile appsIts all about convenience, mobile phones in general are very personal devices and users with smartphones are all always connected and on the go therefore it would make sense to check their phone first for anything that will simplify their lives. I know I check my email on my iPhone to avoid starting up my laptop, its just quicker and easier therefore if there are other applications that can help me do things faster and easier I would definitely consider paying money for that app.

Free apps vs. Paid apps

free vs paid appsFree apps are clearly preferred over paid apps, however users in the MENA region will pay mostly for Banking/Finance, Travel and communication apps. If an app can help users save money or manage their money better I think that it would be money well spent. As for travel apps this is a category that can be lucrative for developers, as long as they provide  informative content for users. I recently met a startup in Jordan that are looking to develop paid traveling apps for the region we will write more about them in another article however there is a demand for these type of applications.

Number of Apps

number of apps

From the chart above you can clearly see iPhone users have the most apps, so if you’re a developer or an entrepreneur with an idea it would be wise to start with the iPhone and then go onto other platforms.

Why do users delete apps?

why do users delete appsA very interesting fact mentioned in the report is that half of all apps downloaded are deleted while one in five are bought. This should be a red flag for developers, their apps should be useful for their users and they should always update their apps with new features in order to keep their users coming back and avoid getting stagnant.

Terms & Conditions

Terms and conditions
44% of users claim that they don’t read the terms and conditions, that should come as no surprise! However I added this chart from the report because I wanted to point out something very important, users will rarely read content or long passages even if they need help to figure out how to use the app. I’m saying this from personal experience, if you’re counting on users to read more than a couple of lines in order to use an application than start over and make the design friendlier. An app should never have a “how-to use this app” section it should be easy and intuitive to use. We’ve learned this the hard way when asking for feedback from our users, they all had comments about a specific feature even though it was described in the help section. Again it’s all about user experience.

How and when users access apps

How and when users access appsUsers mostly prefer to use apps when they have free access to Wifi connections and when they have spare time, so developers should keep in that in mind and develop their apps that don’t require the use of the users data packages.

App spend

app spend in the MENA25% of the users will pay up to USD 5 on applications, so make sure to stay within that range. There is a demand for it!

App discoverabilty

app discoverabilty

When marketing your app its very important to get it submitted on review blogs and websites to get the word out and more importantly check the review and the feedback to know what you can change and what users would like to have in the app, after all you are developing app for users and not yourself.


LanguageLocalization is important however given the chart above English still has priority, developing apps in Arabic should be thought of however I would recommend launching in English, unless it is specific for the Arabic market.

Tablet numbers

tablet numbers

Users in the MENA are interested in tablets, and it seems that this interest is going to increase in the future.

Tablet Brands

tablet brand

Important Tablet features

important Tablet featuresUsers that are looking into purchasing tablets are most likely to consider internet connection, battery life and the apps available for download. Therefore apps should really cut down on the use of GPS and location services unless they are needed, because the GPS consumes a lot of power and therefore cutting down on the battery life.

App intergration

app integrationUsers would prefer an expensive app that can automatically identify the device and be fully optimized for that device.

Digital Marketing

digital marketingGood news for advertisers and developers, users actually prefer targeted, customized and location based ads the most.

If you’re a developer and have any comments from past experiences or would like to know more information, please let us know.

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Having worked with top digital agencies and companies in the MENA region for the past number of years I'm now looking now to venture on my own with small side projects in online, SaaS products. Things I like include: gaming, sports, technology, social media, start ups, funny things and reading about new bright ideas.