Nokia’s smartphone market share in the Middle East – helped by cheaper Lumia models – has crept back into double figures. According to IDC, Nokia smartphone shipments in the region increased from a 9.7 per cent share (Q1 2013) to 11.8 per cent during the following quarter (IDC includes Turkey but excludes Egypt and North Africa in its Middle East figures).

When feature phones are included, Nokia remains the brand leader in the Middle East mobile phone market, claiming a 45.2 per cent share (Q2 2013).

Samsung occupies a distant second spot with an 18.3 per cent share of the overall mobile phone market

In the Middle East smartphone segment, however, the South Korean manufacturer is dominant.

Outselling Nokia by almost five to one, Samsung shipped nearly half of all the smartphones sold in the region in Q2 2013, buoyed by its popular Galaxy SIII and SIII Mini models.

The two Galaxy models, combined, outperformed Apple’s iPhone 5 and also outsold Samsung’s new Galaxy S4 flagship, which was priced well above the SIII.

As consumers awaited the launch of the next iPhone model, Apple’s overall smartphone share in the region was slightly down, quarter-on-quarter, at 11.4%.

According to IDC, smartphones now account for nearly two out of every five phones in the Middle East, with smartphone volumes up 16.4 per cent in Q2 2013 when compared to the same quarter in 2012.

In terms of OS, Android remains leader (60 per cent share of overall smartphones in the Middle East). However, IDC says the Google-backed OS is no longer moving further ahead of the other operating systems. Competition is beginning to heat up as iPhone sales rise and Nokia turns the corner with its Lumia Windows Phone range.

“There will soon be other aspiring contenders entering the fray, as we are expecting Tizen and Firefox handsets to appear in the regional market over the next few months,” says Hamza Saleem, a senior analyst for mobile devices at IDC Middle East, Africa and Turkey. “But these new operating systems have to develop an ecosystem that can compete with the likes of iStore and Play Store, as apps are becoming the dominant factor when purchasing a smartphone.”

Microsoft’s takeover of Nokia’s handset operations will only raise the stakes, argues IDC, as it will bring more financial muscle behind the push to put the Windows Phone OS into entry-level smartphones sold in emerging markets.

Meanwhile, Chinese vendors are beginning to become more competitive against Samsung, increasing the rivalry among vendors of Android devices.

Simon Baker, programme manager for mobile handsets at IDC CEMA, said: “As the smartphone markets of the developed world become saturated, the Middle East is becoming more important to handset makers as it encompasses countries with high disposable incomes and a hunger for the latest mobile technologies. As such, we expect to see vendors increasing their marketing activities in the region and expanding distribution.”