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Issues with the Saudi iPhone 1: Arabic Support

This is the first of a series of posts highlighting the issues with the Apple iPhone 3G in Saudi Arabia by Mobily. We hope it will help Apple and Mobily to improve the iPhone 3G experience in Saudi Arabia.

Update: Apple will preview their next iPhone OS update, version 3.0 in a few days. We hope for Arabic support soon!

Update: iPhone OS 3.0 now officially supports Arabic language!

It is a shock that the iPhone 3G was released in Saudi Arabia without any Arabic support. The iPhone 3G as of late February 2009 is now available in four Arabic speaking countries (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan and Egypt).

Arabic in the current iPhone

In the first version of the iPhone OS 1.0 Arabic characters were displayed as squares. But with iPhone OS 2.0 Apple added more languages. Dan Moren from Macworld describes why current Arabic support isn’t right: “Arabic is written in a script that has different form letters depending on the characters placement at the beginning, middle, or end of a word. MobileSafari displays all of the characters as their individual forms, which is unintelligible”. An example is the following image.


How big is Arabic?

In the following table we sorted the languages supported in the iPhone (taken from the iPhone 3G technical specifications) sorted by the number of speakers. We included the number of Arabic speakers in this table for comparison. According to Encarta, Arabic is the second language in speaker count after Chinese (Mandarin). Apple is missing a major market by ignoring the Arabic speakers.


Current Solution

Currently to enable Arabic on the iPhone you need to Jailbreak your iPhone and purchase Arabtaller Plus. It is currently the only way to enable Arabic in the iPhone.


What’s next?

Mobily employees claimed that Apple will release an update for the iPhone with Arabic support in May 2009, 3 months after the release. We will wait and see.
Update: Apparently there are rumors about Arabic iPhone 3G already being tested by Mobily employees.

About Khaled A.


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