Lebanese customers will soon be able to view what is, quite possibly, the biggest Islamic-related product since the prayer beads. For the past two years, a Dubai-based firm has been developing a cellular telephone the promises to “connect you to your beliefs wherever you are.”
This high tech flip phone does more than point devout users in the direction of Mecca from 5,000 cities worldwide. It also stores the entire Koran and is equipped with a Yamaha sound system that can be programmed to play the Islamic call to prayer, or Azan, up to five times per day.
Manufactured in Korea, the i800 is Ilkone’s first product. Ilkone, Arabic for “‘the universe’, is a majority-Arab owned company that stakes claim to being the first regional player to enter the Middle East’s rapidly growing mobile market and with releases soon planned in Malaysia, Turkey, and Indonesia, they have high hopes for capturing a substantial share of the world’s estimated 1.3 billion Muslims.
A two inch, 65,000 color screen allows Muslim users to clearly view the entire text of the Koran, with English meaning translations, a search engine, games, high resolution photos, and text messages. The dual screen also offers an Islamic Hijra calendar and 12 GPRS technology – the latest in mobile internet connectivity.
“It’s a very practical way of performing your Islamic duties,” says Houssam Khatib, the general manager of local Ilkone distributor Office Technologies, “The Islamic applications make the phone unique.” Khatib says he expects the i800 to capture 4 percent of the local market, not very much compared to Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where Ilkone’ s share could even dominate the market.
So why release it first in Beirut? Khatib says it will be an easy testing ground since distribution in the Saudi market will be more complex and possibly involve several agents.
Ilkone is not limited to only Islamic phones. They expect to become a global mobile player by releasing three additional and unrelated models by the end of 2004. The i800, which may lack a few features of the latest mobile phones, it is prospected to do very well in the conservative states like Saudi Arabia, where camera phones are banned.
Al Azhar, one of the world’s leading centers for Islamic scholarship, reviewed and has certified this phone. Religious claims aside, consumer spending power could be the biggest factor in this phone, and this company’s, success. The i800 will be selling locally for $496 USD.