Android and Apple may be streets ahead but the latest data shows that Microsoft will soon pass BlackBerry to take third place in the global smartphone market.
The data in question, from IDC's Q4 2012 report, reveals what everyone knows, that Android is the world's most popular smartphone operating system, that Samsung handsets represent 42% of all of the 227.8 million phones shipped over the period and that Apple, despite offering only three ‘premium' phones, still managed to ship 47.8 million iPhones and claim a 21% share of the market.
But the big surprise is in Windows Phones, whose shipments jumped to 6 million for the quarter, a 150% increase on the same period in 2011, giving the operating system a 2.6% share of the market just behind third-placed BlackBerry's 3.2% share.
"With the recent introductions of two new smartphone platforms we expect some ground to be made by the new entrants over the coming years," said Ryan Reith, program manager with IDC's Mobile Device Trackers. "There is no question the road ahead is uphill for both Microsoft and BlackBerry, but history shows us consumers are open to change. Platform diversity is something not only the consumers have asked for, but also the operators."
This growing market share will be crucial for Microsoft and its technology partners but it should also be seen as reassuring by those who have taken a chance and bought a Nokia, HTC or Samsung Windows Phone 8 handset. Shipments of 6 million in a quarter is a great enough critical mass of users to attract and retain app developers. Therefore there is definitely life in the platform and it is currently the only smartphone platform that can truly challenge Apple's iOS in terms of cross-device integration. Just as plugging an iPhone into a Mac desktop or notebook automatically synchronizes it and backs it up, connecting a Windows Phone 8 to a Windows 8 computer offers PC owners the same functionality.
Likewise, it is still very early days for BlackBerry. Though its market share is under threat, IDC's data can't reflect any gains BlackBerry has made since launching its new OS and handsets in January.