News out Thursday from the research firm IDC shows that sales of smartphones running Windows Phone rose by 98.9 percent last year to 17.9 million units globally, from 9 million units in 2011. For the fourth quarter alone, Windows Phone sales jumped by 150 percent to 6 million units, from 2.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2011.
To be sure, Windows Phone market share is still in the single digits, just 2.5 percent for the year and just 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter. And Windows is dwarfed by sales of devices running Google Android Apple iOS. For the year, Android sales were 497 million units for a 68.8 percent market share while iOS sales were 136 million for an 18.8 percent share.
Still, IDC calls Microsoft’s growth “market-beating progress.”
“The addition of Nokia's strong commitment behind the platform was the key driver in Microsoft's success,” IDC noted.
Phone maker Nokia agreed in 2011 to phase out its Symbian OS in favor of Windows Phone. In the fourth quarter, Microsoft upgraded the mobile OS to Windows Phone 8, replacing Windows Phone 7. Samsung and HTC also sell smartphones running WP8, but they also sell devices running Android.
The IDC report paints a similar picture of the smartphone market as the one released by Gartner on Wednesday, which also showed Android and Apple dominating the global market but Microsoft showing a much faster growth rate.
Another smartphone OS to watch is BlackBerry. It had a bad 2012 and a bad fourth quarter with sales down by 36.4 percent for the year and 43.1 percent for the quarter, compared to the year ago periods. That’s due to BlackBerry’s delay in finishing the upgrade to its OS, BB10, to replace the aged BB7. The new OS didn’t debut until Jan. 30, along with two new smartphones running it, so we won’t see the impact of those new products until we see the first quarter 2013 numbers as well as subsequent quarterly reports. IDC states that BlackBerry lost loyal customers to – most likely -- Android and Apple and will have to win them back.
“Now that BlackBerry has unveiled BB10, the company is faced with migrating current BlackBerry users to upgrade while persuading smartphone users of other platforms, including previous BlackBerry users, to switch,” IDC stated.
BlackBerry may also have lost customers to Windows Phone, which has a head start on them with WP8, which was launched in October of 2012. However, Microsoft has greater worries about Android and Apple, which IDC notes have a combined 87.6 percent global market share for 2012 and 91.1 percent for the fourth quarter.
Not only do those OSes have market dominance in their favor, they also best Microsoft in the all important mobile applications market. Apple’s App Store currently has 775,000 applications available, Google has 700,000 apps available in its online store, Google Play, as of November 2012, but Microsoft only has 150,000 apps as of December 2012.