SAN FRANCISCO - Apple Inc on Tuesday released a version of its virtual personal assistant Siri for Arabic speakers in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, potentially making its iPhones more attractive in a largely affluent market of more than 30 million people.
The move, part of Apple's latest software updates, means people in those countries will be able to use Siri in their native tongue on iPhones, iPads and the Apple Watch. It follows Google, whose Android phones' voice search function already offer some support in Arabic.
"This is part of the consumerization and personalization of IT-based services that we're seeing at all levels of the industry," said Paul Black, director of telecoms and media at IDC Middle East, Turkey and Africa.
Apple and its primary smartphone competitor, Google, have saturated the United States and Western Europe with their devices, leaving markets such as the Middle East, China and India as some of the prime places to grow.
Apple already boasts strong brand awareness in the Middle East, particularly among high-end consumers, analysts said. The opening of two retail stores in the UAE in October whipped fans into a frenzy, local media reported.
Smartphone shipments in the Middle East and Africa climbed 66 percent in the first quarter of 2015 and are expected to reach 155 million units for the year, according to IDC.
However, much of the growth has been driven by users buying phones for less than $200, a price where Google's Android operating system is dominant. Apple's share of the market stands at 17 percent in the Middle East, compared with Android's 80 percent, IDC found.