Statistics may say Windows 8 is a flop but, contrary to popular opinion, Windows Phone is far from down and out in the battle for our mobile affections. In fact in many parts of the world sales are rocketing past the iPhone.
Chile, Columbia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Ecuador, Finland, Greece, Hungary, India, Italy, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.
Interestingly in 14 of these markets – Chile, Czech Republic Finland, India, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, Vietnam – Windows Phone has taken second place in the sector, stepping past former strongholds for BlackBerry and Symbian which had also previously edged out iOS.
Furthermore, the context for this data is solid. It comes from global smartphone sales in Q3 2013 by independent market analyst IDC, which also points out Microsoft only led iPhone sales in seven countries in Q3 2012. Sales are also up 156 percent during the last 12 months, triple Android’s annual growth and 6x that of iOS.
But there are significant caveats.
• 156 percent is easier to achieve on a younger platform with a smaller market share
• Italy aside, Windows Phone is primarily growing is poorer nations where the iPhone is prohibitively expensive
• Q3 is typically a slow period for Apple with sales dipping ahead of expected iPhone refreshes
• iPhone sales boom over the Christmas period and Q4 figures have yet to be announced
• Windows Phone sales are most in the low end with the Lumia 5210 (top) and 520 accounting for 42.4 percent of all shipments
• Nokia accounts for 93.2 percent of all Windows Phone handset sales highlighting little traction or interest from companies where Microsoft does not have control
As such, it is possible for cynics to argue Windows Phone is gaining in markets where the iPhone doesn’t compete and making little headway where it does. Except this isn’t true either.
A supporting release for researcher Kantar in December (figures right) points out that Europe as a whole is quickly warming to Windows Phone at the expense of iOS. Across the ‘EU5’ (Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain) iOS market share fell 5 percent over the last 12 months to 15.8 percent while Windows Phone has leapt from 4.8 percent to 10.2 percent (Android grew from 64.5 percent to 70.9 percent).
Most marked is the aforementioned Italy, where a 12.8 percent market shift in 12 months now sees Windows Phone lead iOS 16.1 percent to iOS on 10.1 percent, but there is also Spain where both platforms are tied on 4.3 percent (though Android has a massive 90.1 percent). France also sees an 11 percent shift between Windows Phone and iOS in the last year with the former now at 12.5 percent versus the latter’s 15.9 percent.
Britain remains iOS’s biggest ally in Europe where its market share of 28.7 percent is nearly triple Windows Phone’s 11.9 percent, though that still represents an 11.3 percent shift over the last 12 months in Microsoft’s favor.
So what can we make of this? In short that generalists on both sides are talking nonsense. Windows Phone is still struggling to shift higher end devices, but clear traction is not restricted to developing countries. Developed countries, particularly in Europe where iOS has previously been dominant, are showing strong shifts towards Windows Phone.
Should Apple care? Perhaps not. In only shipping two relatively expensive models with high margins it still dominates the earnings across all platforms (including Android) but this will cause it to lose market share. Should it enter the low end, Apple arguably only risks cannibalizing its own sales and profit margins.
But make no mistake, Windows Phone is no joke. Its force may not be felt in the US but it is growing fast and winning friends around the rest of the world. Yes, much of this may be in the low end, but that has never been a bad gateway to more premium products long term.