By Adam Doud | January 14, 2014 7:00 AM
Is it fair to call Windows Phone a distant third in the smartphone race? I mean really, are they even a contender? Does any Android OEM or Apple look at Windows Phone with any amount of concern? You wouldn’t think so, and truth be told, some probably don’t. The United States is a pretty clear two-horse race. Much of Europe is the same. Android has a strangle hold on world smartphone market share and Samsung has a stranglehold on world Android market share.
So who is concerned about Windows Phone? Who should be concerned? Well, Apple for one. Microsoft released an interesting statistic just the other day, reported on by Jaime Rivera. Windows Phone is beating Apple in twenty four markets around the world. I’m honestly not really sure how to react to this news. I’m a Windows Phone fan of course, and this certainly seems like good news. But on the other hand, when you look at the markets in which Windows Phone is winning, maybe it’s not such a big deal.
Jaime already touched on this briefly, but I’d be inclined to agree with his quick conclusions. Many of the markets are emerging markets. This means two things – first of all, the phones that Windows Phone is winning with are Lumia 520’s not 1020’s. People aren’t buying them for a great camera experience. They’re buying them because they’re really freakin’ cheap. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – more people drive Toyotas than Lamborghinis after all. It doesn’t mean that Toyota is a better car, nor will it get you into more nightclubs.
It’s almost comparing apples to oranges – no pun intended. Apple clearly is not interested in making a product that appeals to the cost-conscious consumer, regardless of the reason why they’re cost-conscious. If you are not willing to pay top shelf money, you will not get an iPhone. Period.
The Lumia 520, 620, and the anything-below-9-20’s are designed at targeting that particular market. And well they should be. There doesn’t have to be a gap between feature phone and iPhone. Windows Phone can fill it quite nicely thank you very much. It’s a good thing that it is. Now that Motorola has a couple of horses in the race, it remains to been seen how long Windows Phone will remain a leader in that arena. Because let’s face it, a $100 Android phone by a reputable company that reviewers don’t hate is a pretty tempting proposition, even to emerging market consumers.
But still, Windows Phone will take credit where it’s due. Not only does it fill the low- mid range gap, but it does so admirably. The Lumia 520 is a snappy little phone that performs just as well as the Lumia 900, which the previous generation’s flagship. That’s not too shabby. But even going beyond performance, there are some numbers which get interesting when one takes a closer look.
Just for a moment, let’s compare Apples to Lumias. But first, let’s start with a disclaimer – there are numbers everywhere. You show me one set of numbers that says something, and I’ll show you numbers that say something else. But several outlets seem to like the numbers I’m about to use, so let’s take a look see shall we?
Last November, research firm IDC released some statistics about global smartphone market share. According to IDC, Android accounted for eighty Holy-Bleepin’-Moly percent of all smartphones shipped worldwide. That’s a lot of percents. After that came iOS with 12 percent of smartphones shipped followed by Windows phone with a measly three percent – ok we’ll be generous – 3.6 percent. That seems like a pretty clear first second and third place, right? Right. Except…
That 3.6 percent for Windows Phone is up by over 156% from the same quarter last year. Well ok, when you’re only selling a few phones there’s nowhere to go but up right? Sure. But Windows Phone almost doubled its global market share in just one year while its next biggest rival Apple saw its share fall. If you happen to be one who enjoys a good horse race, forget Win. Place and Show holds the real drama.
Plus the rabbit hole goes deeper. In Q3 of 2013, Apple had shipped 33.8 million units compared to Windows Phone 9.5 million units. Right off the bat that looks pretty dominant. After all, four iPhones shipped for every one Windows Phone. Sure. But think about it. It’s only four.
Once upon a time, Apple laughed at Windows Phone as some petty upstart with no real future. Now, Windows Phone is selling 25% of the units that Apple is selling. Windows Phone is on the rise, Apple….not so much. The United States might be a two-horse race, but the world is a one horse race, and Apple is very quickly finding itself falling back to the rest of the pack. Will it have anything to fear from Blackberry or Jolla or any of the other upstarts that look to ship some phones this year? Not even close. But Windows Phone is quickly becoming a different story.
So, maybe the United States is not going to be Microsoft’s primary focus for the time being. Maybe it shouldn’t be. Apple and Samsung are pretty firmly entrenched here in the States, so it’s a tough nut to crack. But if Microsoft can establish dominance elsewhere, that can translate to success for the platform, it will translate to market share, more users, more profit for developers, etc. More bang for your Windows Phone buck.