Nov 12 2013

Windows Phone Strengthens Its Hold on Third Place

Persistence pays off for Microsoft and Nokia as Windows Phone’s share in the grand mobile race continues to climb.

When Windows Phone rebranded and relaunched in 2012 alongside Microsoft’s new desktop operating system, Windows 8, many doubted that a third mobile OS could crack the Android-iOS stronghold. But it appears that Microsoft’s smartphone operating system is starting to make a dent. ABI Research reports that Windows Phone’s share of the global smartphone market climbed to a respectable 4 percent in the third quarter of 2013.

While it holds a much smaller share than that of Apple and Android devices, Windows Phone has gained market share while BlackBerry, which saw its market share dip to 1.5 percent last quarter, has slipped to fourth place.

Windows Phone’s market share grew by 165 percent year over year, with Nokia, not surprisingly, accounting for 95 percent of shipments. Nokia, by far Windows Phone’s biggest licensee with its acclaimed Lumia series, will soon become part of Microsoft. Microsoft announced plans to purchase Nokia’s Devices and Services business and patent portfolio back in September for $7.2 billion. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014.

“The race for the third ecosystem is clearly favoring Windows Phone,” says ABI Research Senior Analyst Michael Morgan. “But there remains little opportunity for new market entrants to make a significant impact on Android’s dominance.”

How dominant is Android? The Google-owned OS accounted for 81 percent of all smartphones shipped in the third quarter; and of the 438 million cellphones sold, 244 million of them were smartphones.

In Android’s universe, Samsung once again led the pack of mobile manufacturers, increasing its total share of the smartphone market in the third quarter to an impressive 35 percent. Not since Nokia’s heyday, just before the launch of the iOS and Android platforms six years ago, has any single company or platform held as dominant a sway over smartphones as Android now does. Apple’s market share, meanwhile, remains flat from last quarter, at 14 percent.

ABI Research expects Apple to ship a record 53 million iPhones in the fourth quarter, however, thanks to the rollout of the new iPhone 5s and 5c models. But “even with a record Q4 for the iPhone, Apple is only expected to achieve 18.7 percent market share, which is down from the 22.6 percent Apple achieved in Q4 2012, due to Android’s growing dominance and the importance of emerging markets,” says ABI Research Senior Practice Director Nick Spencer.