IDC said it believes that Windows Phone can go nowhere but up. Its current share of the worldwide smartphone market is about 5.2%, but that is set to swell to 19.2% by 2016 thanks to Nokia's strength in certain emerging markets. The arrival of Windows Phone 8 "Apollo" later this year along with Microsoft's big push with Windows 8 will help spur adoption of Microsoft's mobile platform.
What of the other platforms? Apple's iOS platform's current market share stands at 20.5%. IDC predicts iOS will drop to about 19% of the world market by 2016--below Windows Phone. RIM's market share will stay essentially flat over the course of the next five years, slipping from today's 6% to 5.9% by 2016.
[ One thing that will help Windows Phone grow is apps. Read Windows Phone Marketplace Crosses 100,000 App Mark. ]
"Underpinning the smartphone market is the constantly shifting OS landscape," said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Phone Technology and Trends team. "Android will maintain leadership throughout our forecast, while others will gain more mobile operator partnerships (Apple) or currently find themselves in the midst of a major transition (BlackBerry and Windows Phone/Windows Mobile). What remains to be seen is how these different operating systems--as well as others--will define and shape the user experience beyond what we see today in order to attract new customers and encourage replacements."
The worldwide mobile phone market in general will grow by a meager 4% this year, thanks to rapidly declining sales of feature phones and the glum economy. IDC said that people are holding onto feature phones longer thanks to the uncertain economic outlook. Feature phones will still account for 61.6% of all cell phones shipped this year.
Smartphones in particular will see high year-over-year growth with approximately 686 million units shipped this year. Smartphone growth can be attributed in part to higher carrier subsidies and lower average selling prices.
"The smartphone parade won't be as lively this year as it has been in past," said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. "The mobile phone user transition from feature phones to smartphones will continue in a gradual but unabated fashion. Smartphone growth, however, will increasingly be driven by a triumvirate of smartphone operating systems, namely Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7."
Restivo's observation isn't far off. Smartphone makers have announced fewer devices so far this year when compared to the same period during both 2010 and 2011. For example, HTC has announced only four phones worldwide this year. Nokia has only announced two. Data suggests that sales of new Android handsets have declined a small percentage each month so far this year. With fewer handsets hitting store shelves, it will be harder for Google's astounding daily activation rate to maintain its current trajectory.
At the end of the day, even in 2016, Android will still be the market leader by a wide margin.