Published on December 31st, 2015 | by Varuna Singh


The Best & Worst Middle East Tech Stories of 2015

It’s that time of the year again. The year 2015 looked like a lot of things were put into action in the Middle East. Policies and ideas from 2014 translated into action. There were also some disappointments. It was a good year for us too. We reported a lot on this year that is coming to an end. Here are some stories that we think shaped the tech culture in the Middle-East for 2015. Then there are ones that are just *face palm* material.

5 Best Tech Moments of 2015

1. The Apple Store

Oh boy, it’s the Apple Store. Launched in Mall of the Emirates in Dubai and Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi, this is Apple’s first store in the Middle-East. Check our review out here:

Apple is now going to more verticals than it has ever been before. It is being big on the culture of the region and is even going as far as hosting regional events. Apple Music and the Apple watch are the most recent most human products and the Apple Store in Dubai is probably the most human store from Apple I’ve ever seen.

2. The Growth of Souq.com


 With partnerships and exclusivity, regional e-commerce marketplace Souq.com was aggressive this year with exclusive tie ups with the smart phone brands around the world. From WileyFox , Honor  and Micromax to even abandoning the OnePlus invite system. Souq.com went aggressive this year.

3. SharafDG unveils the best retail experience

Sharaf DG CEO Nilesh Khalkho on new retail experience

 Sharaf DG announced their new multichannel strategy and the experiences out of it at their flagship store in Times Square Center Mall which is technically innovate and practically smart.
What’s even better is that the foundation and design of the store isn’t architecture, its design. Sharaf DG announced their online marketplace presence as well as retail and this mix happened this year.

4. Fetchr starts operations


Fetchr successfully got $11 million of Series A funding this year. They are a Dubai based logistics startup that aims to improve deliveries in the Middle East.
Fetchr says it is “significantly faster than competitors, with 97 percent of packages delivered same day or overnight, and a return process that picks up within 30 minutes.” It says it can achieve that by using proprietary technology to schedule pick-up and delivery times.
In words by Joy Ajlouny, Co Founder of Fetcher: “We see ourselves as a technology company that ships

5. Social Media Brands Embrace Ramadan

Ramadan 2015 across social media platforms

This year we saw Facebook targeting Ramadan engaged users, Twitter with their #Ramadan Hashflags, Snapchat with their Ramadan Filters across the Middle East and even a My Ramadan Companion portal from Google. This year Ramadan was embraced and celebrated across these online channels.
5 Not So Great Stories of 2015

1. Zomato shuts down its cashless service

Zomato Cashless

It only feels like yesterday when we were excited about Zomato cashless. – The service where you could pay your restaurant / café bill by an app. Not just any app, it was sort of integrated with Zomato, the restaurant discovery app. The restaurant needed to have this set up and ideally you would enjoy some food and drinks without even taking / bringing your wallet out. Eat and Go. All of that started and shut down in 8 months.

In my opinion the problem Cashless was trying to solve wasn’t universal. Cashless is all about convenience and Zomato needed a quicker validation of that. As we reviewed the service, we shed light on some of those convenience barriers. Cashless never iterated until now. Zomato is taking one step back to be back with a much better experience and hopes to get more customers experience its services.

2. Etisalat’s VoIP app C’me charges both data and call rate


A couple of months back, Etisalat launched their answer to the VoIP situation in the Middle-East. It was called C’Me . This app is a messaging, voice and really a VoIP app for iPhone and Android. C’Me is only available for Etisalat users.
The problem isn’t that. It’s that Etisalat will charge you for both Data and calling when using C’Me. In fact, if you are connected to WiFi, C’Me will charge you money for the call be it audio or video. if you are using C’Me with your data plan, your data will be used and you will also be charged for using the service at normal traditional calling rates.

3. WhatsApp UAE fine

WhatsApp on Web

Technically this is a good thing but news broke out that UAE has a new law regarding insults made over the internet. First of all Online abuse and privacy are serious topics. Secondly, Online is just as valid of a medium as offline and the UAE correctly acknowledges that. It just happened the hard way. What didn’t go well is the notion that your rights are somehow more relaxed online than offline.

4. Samsung Distributor disputes with user from company account


An Instagram user decided to highlight the grammar on Instagram posts by Samsung‘s distributor. Distributors would have to adhere to a brand’s guidelines for any marketing activities, as it’s part of their contractual obligation for representing them in the market.
The Distributor (that managed and handled Samsung’s account) responded very inappropriately and the matter scaled up from there. #SocialMedia101

5. The use of VPN became illegal in the UAE

VPN Illegal UAE Dubai

That’s true people. It was in March of this year that we found that out. The use of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) in the UAE to bypass content filters and ‘tamper with the internet network’ is illegal in the UAE.
There are many VPN services that allow users to get around the filters put in place by TRA and the ISPs. While these services may be used for nefarious purposes, some users in the country and region use them to access services such as VOIP, and multimedia content which may be restricted to certain countries – like Netflix or Spotify.
Action isn’t being taken on its own accord but can be proved if it needs to be.
So that was our look back at 2015. What do you think of our list? Let us know in this massive throwback.
Happy New Year Guys, Hopefully 2016 starts with a bang. With CES next week, that’s just what will happen. Stay put.

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About the Author

I work with technology in Education. I also write stuff. I love design and people. @varunasingh

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