Windows Mobile Gains Traction, But Android, iOS Still Lead

Windows' strength appears to be the ability to attract first-time smartphone buyers who are upgrading from feature phones.

Smartphones running Microsoft’s Windows operating system showed continued growth, gaining 1.9 percent compared to the same period last year, although they accounted for just 5.6 percent of smartphone sales in the first quarter of 2013, based on data released by research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

Google’s Android platform remains the top selling OS with 49.3 percent of smartphone sales, although the report noted the platform saw only slight growth compared to the same period last year. Competitor Apple and its iOS platform remained in second place with 43.7 percent of smartphone sales, down throughout Q1 2013, according to the report.

"As iOS and Android continue to battle it out for top-selling smartphone OS, we have seen Windows steadily grow over the past year and is now at its highest sales share figure so far," Mary-Ann Parlato, an analyst with Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, said in a statement.

The data is derived from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech USA’s consumer panel, a consumer research mobile phone panel, which conducts more than 240,000 interviews per year in the United States alone. The report tracks mobile phone behavior and the customer journey, including purchasing of phones, mobile phone bills/airtime, and source of purchase and phone usage.

Among the top smartphone carriers in the U.S. market, Verizon continues to lead smartphone sales with 37.2 percent of smartphones sold in the three months ending March 2013. Rival AT&T remains in second place with 27.9 percent market share, and Sprint in third place with a 12.3 percent share. T-Mobile was the only carrier to decline this period, seeing a 3.2 percent loss versus the same period a year ago, down to 9.5 percent of smartphones sold.

"Windows' strength appears to be the ability to attract first-time smartphone buyers, upgrading from a feature phone. Of those who changed their phone over the last year to a Windows smartphone, 52 percent had previously owned a feature phone. Comparatively, the majority of iOS and Android new customers were repeat smartphone buyers, with 55 percent of new iOS customers, and 51 percent of new Android customers coming from another smartphone," Parlato said. "While the differences between these figures are small, with over half of the U.S. market still owning a feature phone, it’s likely that many will upgrade over the coming year, which will ultimately contribute to more growth for the Windows brand."

One of Windows’ key handset manufacturers, Nokia, has seen the greatest benefit from the platform’s growth. However, although accounting for just 4 percent of smartphones sold in Q1 2013, Nokia has seen its share rise from just 1 percent in the same period a year ago. The report noted Windows share growth has continued to rise in European markets, particularly where Windows is supported by the legacy of its hardware partners.

"The U.S. market differs in the fact that there are still many users in the market that are yet to upgrade to their first smartphone device," the report noted. "And Windows is starting to capture these consumers."