Windows Phone Steals Third Place From BlackBerry

Android and iOS are in no danger of losing their incredible lead over the competition, but Microsoft's smartphone platform has made a significant move.

Eric Zeman, Contributor

May 16, 2013

3 Min Read

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Microsoft desperately wants its Windows Phone platform to be the third ecosystem in the smartphone wars. Signs suggest that it might be able to pull it off.

Android and iOS are numbers one and two, respectively, and that is unlikely to change any time soon. Android shipped on an incredible 75% of all smartphones during the first quarter of the year. Total Android shipments reached 162.1 million devices compared to 90.3 million in the year-ago period. Apple's iOS is a distant second now. Its shipments of just 37.4 iOS devices gave Apple a 17.3% slice of the smartphone market. Apple lost nearly 6 percentage points to Google year-over-year.

Together, Android and iOS ran 199.5 million devices shipped worldwide, giving the two platforms a combined 92.3% of the smartphone market. Apple and Samsung alone own all the profits in the smartphone business.

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For the first time, Microsoft's Windows Phone platform ranked third in terms of handset shipments, nudging out BlackBerry. In fact, the number of Windows Phone shipments more than doubled year-over-year from 3 million units during the first quarter of 2012 to 7 million during the first quarter of 2013. The increase gave it 3.2% of the smartphone market, still well behind Apple's iOS. Microsoft can thank its partnership with Nokia for boosting these numbers. Nokia was responsible for 79% of all Windows Phone sales during the quarter. To date, Nokia has shipped a total of 20.3 million Lumia smartphones.

"Windows Phone claiming the third spot is a first and helps validate the direction taken by Microsoft and key partner Nokia," said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. "Given the relatively low volume generated, the Windows Phone camp will need to show further gains to solidify its status as an alternative to Android or iOS."

BlackBerry saw a huge drop in device shipments year-over-year, but that is only telling half the story. During the first quarter of 2012, BlackBerry shipped 9.7 million smartphones and owned 6.4% of the market. But the company introduced no significantly new models until January 2013, when it launched the Z10. BlackBerry managed to ship 6.3 million devices during the first quarter of this year, which gives it 2.9% of the smartphone market. BlackBerry also announced the Q5 this week, which it will shop to emerging markets. This could boost its numbers going into the back half of the year.

The difference between Windows Phone's 3.2% share and BlackBerry's 2.9% amounts to just 700,000 devices. BlackBerry could easily regain third place if solid sales of the Z10 continue, and both the Q10 and Q5 are hits. The Q10 is already for sale in some markets, and reaches the U.S. in June. Given the pent-up demand for a good, QWERTY smartphone, the Q10 could be responsible for putting BlackBerry back into third place. Microsoft will need the Lumia 925 and Lumia 928 to be strong sellers to maintain its momentum against BlackBerry.

About the Author(s)

Eric Zeman


Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies.

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