No Android Market for the Middle East [we're not 'Appy]

Posted May 13, 2010 by Thomas Shambler in Featured

So you dig Google‘s slick Android interface, and shop around for a techtastic mobile running Android 2.1. You find Sony Ericsson’s tech-tastic Xperia X10, and spring for one of the best Android handsets to date. As you lovingly peel away the clear, screen protector and boot-up the mobile marvel, you smile to yourself. In seconds you will have one of the best mobile operating systems available, complete with Google‘s ace voice and image search, Google Maps, Gmail and a load of sweet applications via the Android Market.

But wait, as you slide your fingers around the lovingly designed multitouch screen you notice something missing. Actually, a lot is missing. Because your phone doesn’t have Google’s Market app. Odd, you think to yourself, but I should be able to get it online. The Android Market has over 50,000 apps, one for every day of the month for 136 years, and is hugely important for Android-users everywhere.

As you look at the Android Market’s online presence, you notice a distinct lack of ‘download’ button. And a few Googles later, and you still haven’t found a thing. That’s when you turn to your friendly neighbourhood Stuff magazine, and fire off an email asking for help.

This activates the gadget-help siren at Stuff Towers, prompting the whole team to slide down a pole downstairs into the Stuffmobile.

This happens fairly regularly to our team of gadget-obsessed ninja-like staff, and in this case, we set off in a particularly speedy fashion. We sped to the offices of Sony Ericsson in Dubai, and started hammering on the door. Sony Ericsson just launched the X10 in the Middle East, so if anyone knows what’s going on, it’s the phone-friendly blokes behind it.

After a few Jack Bauer-esque torture sessions with the VPs – they finally cracked.

It seems the Xperia X10, or indeed any officially sold Android Mobile in the Middle East, lacks Google’s ace Android app. No official Twitter applications, no Facebook-friendly custom apps, no notepads, no Google-assisted maps. You’re stuck with whatever comes preloaded on your mobile’s hard drive, and a few paltry apps stuck in the Middle East’s slew of manufacturer-specific marketplace apps.

We asked the just-beaten staff over at SE why this travesty continues, this was there response:

The Android Market is not supported in the UAE. This is due to the fact that Google has not had the necessary agreements with the Regulatory bodies as yet. This is fully controlled and managed by Google. Sony Ericsson will be offering Slide Me which is an alternative to Android market in the UAE.

Say it ain’t so. So it seems the UAE’s government is to blame for our region’s lack of ‘Appiness’.

In normal situations, the Stuff team would jump back in the significantly-armoured Stuffmobile and head off to the government’s offices. Unfortunately, it got wind of our mischievous mobile plans and gave our gadget-laden vehicle a ticket. Then it was towed away. It seems this is one battle we can’t wage with force (they have guns, you know). So we’ll have to handle it in a more diplomatic (read boring) fashion.

We’ve asked Google and the Government and Sony Ericsson to comment on this thrilling adventure of App freedom. Updates to follow.

[UPDATE: Google have got back to us, here’s what the search giant has to say:

Our goal is to create a trusted marketplace where the rules are clear to users and developers for how to interact (e.g. refund policies), and that protects users’ devices and the shared network from abuse. Currently, Android Market is available in dozens of countries (see the list here, and we are working hard to launch in additional countries. Please note that until Android Market is launched in a country, it cannot appear on local devices.

At this point however we don’t have a comment on any regulatory / telecoms-specific issues.

It’s worth noting that we tested the original Android-running mobile, the HTC G1 (or T-Mobile G1 if you prefer) which ran the Market app fine. It seems the problem is getting the Market on your mobile to begin with]

About the Author

Thomas Shambler

Editor of Stuff in the Middle East. Known for his witty reviews and insightful comments on some of the world’s coolest kit, he is responsible for putting together the magazine, testing the newest tech, and writing features at the laser-cut edge of the gadget world. Thomas also makes regular broadcast appearances during which he gives friendly advice and warns the world of the impending robot Armageddon.



    umm ..i thought xperia doesnt have multi touch yet
    and yah i was a crazy android fan for the first year android was launched waITING FOR IT LIKE CRAZY UNTIL 1 DAY (AFTER 1.5 YEARS ) I CRACKED AND GOT AN IPHONE

    i dont regret it i love it and i know that android is coming to my iphone so yaa


    obviously RTA collaborated with TRA against Stuff.
    iPad (and iThing) must have a role in this, as it is availabe in the market without being officially launched in the country yet. looking forward to an unfolding story.


    same comment. i bought xperia x10 last month only to find out that there’s no market installed! i paid for nothing. i thought the phone was damaged so i restored it to previous settings but when i called SE helpdesk they told me that the apps was not supported in UAE! i didn’t get my money’s worth.


    Yea – we think the lack of Android Market should be clearly visible on the packaging. Have you tried SlideMe for the X10? It’s not nearly as good as the Market app – but still better than nothing.


    Am planning to buy a HTC Desire abroad and bring it back to Dubai. Planning to download a whole load of apps before coming back. Will Stuff keep a track of developments on this subject for us?? It would also be good if you could have an article on the problem and the workarounds.


    Hi Sandeep – if you have the Android Market installed on your phone already, then you’ll be fine. Whenever we get a UK or US unit in for testing, it always comes pre-installed and always works in the region.

    The problem we have over here – is that the app is not pre-installed and you cannot download it. So buying your Android mobile outside of the Middle East is your best bet.


    I have heard that there is a possibility of Android Market coming to UAE in June. If possible, can you pls confirm this with Google or Sony Ericsson? Thanks.


    i bought a xperia x10i and im experiencing a hell of problms wth it. the main issue is it gets off in between calls, usin wifi and listening to music. it was nt havnin adroid market. so i gav back the very nxt day n dey sent it to the company and gt it repaired. and whn i looked through it i was amazed to see android market application installed in it. and it was wrking so gud. but i was unlucky tht my phone again started d same issue of getin off in between. So nw i called thm i said wats happening . dey said dey will replace the phone for me.
    i cant understand how android was wrkin whn dey say its nt available in UAE….


    This is a TRAVESTY! The reason we paid tons of money is so we can get Android AND the android Market.. what’s the use of BUYING ANDROID, when there is NO ANDROID?? what’s the matter? Did the Royal family buy iPhone, and so they are protecting their “investments” on the ridiculous iPhone by BLOCKING Android Market ??? FOR SHAME, FOR SHAME !! Android WILL OVERTAKE the over-hyped iPhone, with or without the Android Market, mark my words !!


    What if I take my middle-east handset to the UK? Will I be able to get the app and use it then?

    Ibrahim Najmi


    I just bought HTC Desire and it did contain android market app. The only downside is that I cannot buy any app as the developers aren’t allowed to sell in Middle East. The other bummer is I am still waiting for the 2.2 ver here :(


    I have a new Samsung Galaxy Tab recently purchased in Egypt. After getting over the initial shock of the missing android apps marketplace, then disappointed with SAM Me apps, then furious at the Samsung message on my phone that said due to conflict with Google, Samsung do not support android os with apps right now.

    I trawled the internet and have found a website that allows downloading and installing of the majority of android apps market place. No root or modification of ROM required.


    Aya K

    I purchased a mytouch 4g from the states…my question is can I enjoy all the apps and functins that typical android users can in JORDAN????

    Mohamed Kamel

    Seano: THANK YOU!!!


    Is it supported in Jordan??


    I have Android market and I live in Jo so shut up

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