Windows Phone still trails far behind Android and iPhone, but it's finally making inroads in the smartphone market.
Windows Phone 8: Star Features
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Microsoft may be getting some traction in its effort to become a legit player in the smartphone market, as sales of devices that run its Windows Phone operating system climbed dramatically in the third quarter, according to market data released Wednesday.
Phone makers sold 4.06 million Microsoft-based devices worldwide, mostly running Windows Phone, in the third quarter, compared to 1.7 million in the same period a year ago, according to market watcher Gartner. That's a jump of 139%, and it pushed the company's share of the worldwide mobile OS market to 2.4%, up from 1.5% a year ago.
That's still miniscule. Google's Android OS saw its share climb from 52.5% to a dominant 72.4%. But it's enough to show that Microsoft is starting to make inroads against some competitors. Apple's iOS, which powers the iPhone, fell from 15% in Q3 2011 to 13.9% in Q3 2012. RIM's share, meanwhile, declined significantly, from 11% to 5.3%. The company is hoping the release of BlackBerry 10, slated for Jan. 30, will stem its losses.
Nokia's Symbian saw its share fall dramatically, from 16.9% to 2.6%. That came as no surprise. The company is phasing out Symbian in favor of Windows Phone under an alliance with Microsoft. "The arrival of new Lumia devices on Windows [Phone] 8 should help halt the decline in share in the fourth quarter of 2012, although it won't be until 2013 to see a significant improvement in Nokia's position," Gartner said.
Nokia's Lumia line is key to Microsoft's hopes for Windows Phone 8. Nokia introduced two devices at a recent New York City event -- the flagship Lumia 920 and the Lumia 820. Both were the first publicly demonstrated devices to carry Windows Phone 8, which offers support for advanced features like quad-core processors, which are not found in the new Nokia phones.
Both phones feature a 1.5-GHz Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor, cameras with Carl Zeiss optics and wireless chargers. The 920 generally carries higher specs all around. It sports a 4.5-inch display, compared to 4.3 inches for the 820, 32 GB of storage (compared to 8 GB) and PureMotion HD+ display technology (compared to the 820's ClearBlack OLED display).
Microsoft and its partners are using aggressive pricing in their efforts to build share for Windows Phone. AT&T is offering the Lumia 920 for just $99 with a contract. Apple's new flagship, the iPhone 5, by contrast starts at $199 on AT&T. Verizon, meanwhile, plans to offer the Lumia 822 for $99 on contract, and also reportedly plans to introduce a Windows 8 smartphone that is free with a contract.
Overall, Gartner said that worldwide sales of mobile phones to end users totaled roughly 428 million units in the third quarter, down 3.1% from a year ago. But there are some positive signs looking ahead. "After two consecutive quarters of decline in mobile phone sales, demand has improved in both mature and emerging markets," said Gartner analyst Anshul Gupta, in a statement.
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