Windows Phone Sales Surge

The market researchers at Canalys say that Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform experienced a whopping 277 percent market-share bump in Q2 2012, throwing cold water on claims that the Windows Phone 8 announcement would somehow stifle sales of current handsets. That growth is about 2.5 times the growth that market leader Android experienced in the same time period, and about 10 times the growth that Apple’s iPhone achieved.

Canalys reported that total Windows Phone handset sales in the quarter were 5.1 million units, up from 1.3 million in the same quarter a year ago. That was good for 3.2 percent of the market, up from 1.2 percent a year ago. Nokia sold about 80 percent of those Windows Phone devices, making it the dominant player among Windows Phone device makers.

Microsoft revealed in June that its forthcoming Windows Phone 8 update wouldn't be available as an upgrade for existing Windows Phone handsets, leading many anti-Microsoft bloggers and others to claim that the firm had “stabbed” Nokia in the back and screwed current users. Nokia, which obviously knew about this plan as long ago as last year, denied both claims and reported recently that sales of its Windows Phone-based Lumia devices actually grew in the wake of the Windows Phone 8 announcement.

Of course, Windows Phone still accounts for a tiny share of the overall market for smartphones. And the heady growth rates we’re now seeing are possible only because of that fact. In this way, Windows Phone growth mirrors previous leaps made by Apple’s Mac in the PC industry. But that system still controls barely more than 5 percent of the market, despite years of generally outpacing the growth of the wider industry.

And the dominant platform, Google’s Android, has nothing to fear from Windows Phone, at least not yet. Android grew 110 percent in the quarter (year over year), and with 108 million units sold in the quarter—the first time Android devices surpassed 100 million units sold in that time frame—Google’s smartphone platform now accounts for 68 percent of the market.

Samsung, the world’s biggest maker of smartphones, continues its dominance over other firms. Samsung alone accounts for more than 31 percent of the market and sold 45 million Android-based devices in the quarter, Canalys says. (Other analysts have pegged the number at more than 50 million units.)

And if that’s not sobering enough for you, consider this: Research In Motion (RIM), which by all accounts is spiraling the drain, sold 8.5 million devices in the quarter. That’s about half again as many units as all Windows Phone handset makers combined. (That said, RIM’s market share is heading in the wrong direction; its year-over-year sales were down 32 percent.)

China is another issue. Canalys says that the most heavily populated country on Earth now accounts for 27 percent of total smartphone shipments and that Chinese handset makers are pushing out international players. Nokia sales in China fell 47 percent in the quarter, for example, and even Apple fell to fifth place among hardware vendors there. Android runs on over 81 percent of the smartphones sold in China in Q2 2012.

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