Android Will Peak in 2012, Windows Phone Will Pass iOS by 2016: IDC

Nokia will help Microsoft's Windows Phone OS grab a larger share of the smartphone market at the expense of Apple's iOS by 2016, according to IDC. Android will retain the top position during the next four years but will peak this year.

Google€™s Android operating system will maintain its position as the top-shipping smartphone OS through 2016, but this year will represent its peak, research firm IDC said in a June 6 report. Analysts expect the smartphone market to grow slowly but steadily on the backs of three major platforms: Android, Apple€™s iOS and Microsoft€™s Windows Phone.

Should Nokia manage to maintain its strength in emerging markets, IDC expects Windows Phones€™ market share to squeeze past iOS by 2016.

€œUnderpinning the smartphone market is the constantly shifting OS landscape,€ Ramon Llamas, IDC senior research analyst, said in a statement. €œWhat remains to be seen is how these different operating systems€”as well as others€”will define and shape the user experience beyond what we see today in order to attract new customers and encourage replacements.€

IDC expects the mobile phone market to ship nearly 1.8 billion units in 2012, growing by slightly more than 4 percent year over year€”the market€™s lowest growth rate since 2009. A major contributor to the modest uptick is a projected 10 percent decline in feature phone shipments this year, as owners of the devices, being fiscally cautious in uncertain times, hold on to their phones instead of upgrading.

What growth the market does see will come thanks to smartphones, expected to grow nearly 39 percent to 686 million units in 2012, helped by, among other things, considerable carrier subsidies, falling component costs and selling prices, an increase in device diversity and lower-cost data plans.

€œThe smartphone parade won€™t be as lively this year as it has been in the past,€ said Kevin Restivo, also an IDC senior research analyst.

IDC expects Android-running devices to control 61 percent of the market this year, with Samsung selling the lion€™s share. By 2016, Android€™s share is expected to dip to nearly 53 percent, as Windows Phone climbs from 5.2 percent in 2012 to 19.2 in 2016. Apple, meanwhile, which is expected to grab a 20.5 percent share this year, will see a less than 2 percent change by 2016, dipping to 19 percent.

€œ[Apple€™s] iOS will continue its impressive run, thanks to strong iPhone 4S momentum in North America, Western Europe and Asia/Pacific, specifically China, this year,€ IDC said in its report. €œGrowth will moderate over the five-year forecast, given the large installed base Apple has accumulated, which means more of its addressable market will be on replacement cycles. Emerging market growth is of utmost importance if iOS is to gain share.€

Research in Motion€™s BlackBerry OS is expected to control a 6 percent share of the market this year€”actually putting it in the fifth-place ranking behind €œall others.€ However, with Symbian€™s rapid decline, now that Nokia€™s focus has shifted to Windows Phone, the others will account for just 3 percent of the market by 2016, moving the category to fifth place and allowing RIM, remaining essentially static, to the fourth-place ranking.

€œThere will continue to be a market for BlackBerry OS-powered devices, despite Research In Motion€™s current woes,€ said the report. IDC expects emerging markets, where affordable messaging devices are desirable, to help the BlackBerry maker, as well as bring-your-own-device (BYOD) enterprise trends.

By the end of 2016, IDC expects overall mobile phone shipments to rise from 2012€™s 1.8 billion to 2.3 billion units.

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