Arab ‘Appleholics’ celebrate as iPhone turns 10


JEDDAH: The iPhone is celebrating its 10th birthday — and for so-called ‘Appleholics’ in the Arab world, the party has only just started.
On Jan. 9, 2007, the late Steve Jobs told the audience at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco that the iPhone would “revolutionize the industry.”
And so it transpired, with the smartphone revolution heralding a new world of apps, super-connectivity and high-tech services.
It has been a profitable decade for Apple — and an expensive one for Kuwaiti Nawaf Al-Suwaiyed.
The 32-year-old told Arab News that he has spent almost $50,000 on Apple gadgets over the years, and jokingly describes himself as an “Appleholic.” His collection includes every single iPhone model, two iMacs and three laptops.
He was one of the first in the Arab world to get his hands on an iPhone, when in September 2007 he paid $2000 for a gadget that had not even been released in the region.
“I was mesmerized by the device,” Al-Suwaiyed told Arab News. “It changed everything, as to how we communicate, how we share things. It all started with the iPhone.”
Technology experts agreed that the iPhone had been revolutionary, but said it was just a taster of things to come.
Dany Farha, chief executive and managing partner of the Dubai-based Beco Capital, said that he sees the iPhone as being an early step in the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) revolution, which will see billions of devices connected to the Web.
Apple recently said it would commit $1 billion to a $100 billion, fund run by Japan’s SoftBank, which has a focus on IoT technologies. The fund is also being backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and one Abu Dhabi-based entity is also said to be considering pumping money into the Vision Fund venture.
“Think of the iPhone as the start of a 75-year IoT journey. And we’ve just seen the first of it… it’s pretty cool,” Farha told Arab News.
Fadi Ghandour, the entrepreneur and technology investor, said the iPhone and smartphones in general had “transformed our lives.”
“Everything that we do today is on this small machine,” said Ghandour, who is the founder of the logistics firm Aramex, and now heads up Wamda Capital, a prominent regional venture capital firm.
“It’s our bank, it’s our payment, it’s our video, it’s our fax machine, it’s our e-mail,” he said.
“The visionary power of what Steve Jobs did cannot be underestimated. This is where, in my view, the digital revolution actually went on steroids.”
The iPhone does, of course, have its detractors.
Ismail Al-Ghussein, 34, who is Jordanian and lives in Dubai, said that the iPhone — far from being technologically advanced — lacks many of the features found in other, cheaper phones.
“Apple is ridiculously expensive for something that is quite basic,” he said.
So does Apple super-fan Al-Suwaiyed ever regret shelling out almost $50,000 on all that Apple gear? Not at all, he said: “I would do it all over again.”