If Windows Phone takes off, who will lose market share?

by: Mike AndriciApril 13, 2012


I’ve been writing about Android since the release of the first smartphone to run the OS, the HTC Dream (those of you from the US might know it as the T-Mobile G1), back in October 2009. At the time, I must have read about a hundred articles by authors of all calibers, all arguing why Android didn’t stand a chance to become what it is today: the largest smartphone OS in the world by market share.

But despite the fact that I’m a big Android fan who honestly believes that Android is the best mobile OS out there, I’m not going to make the same mistake that all those writers did back in 2009. I am not going to let my preferences get it in the way of observing how other platforms evolve. And neither should you.

Android wasn’t always the top dog

Although I wouldn’t call it a slow start, I would say that the past 12-18 months have definitely been a lot kinder to the Android ecosystem than its first couple of years. It is during this period that we’ve seen Android provide an overwhelming (just ask Apple snobs, they’ll tell you) variety of top-class hardware, combined with a first glimpse of what some call maturity (yes, I’m talking about Android 4.0 ICS).

In this context, it was to be expected that Android’s market share will eventually soar past that of iOS, and so it did. But being king of the digital hill doesn’t mean Android is fault-proof. Moreover, some developments, such as ongoing privacy issues, over-fragmentation, and a recently evolving piracy problem pose more of a threat than ever to the health of the ecosystem that Google worked so hard to grow.

In addition, a recent rumor talks about a number of unhappy Android manufacturers that plan to fork the OS in the future. Sure, it will still be Android at base, but the end experience will become even more fragmented than it already is. That’s obviously not a good sign, since a smoother overall experience is exactly what Apple is marketing about their iPhones and, let’s face it, one of the biggest drawing factors for the smartphone buyer.

Although the iOS and Android seem to complement each other perfectly, in a mobile OS ying-yang way, I can’t shake the feeling that there’s room for a much more powerful third OS, now that RIM is breaking one negative record after the other. And that’s exactly where Microsoft, the main competitor to both Apple and Google in a number of other markets, steps in with its Windows Phone OS.

Microsoft, Google, Apple Image Credit: Shane Snow/Gizmodo

Windows Phone to gain momentum in 2012

Since the Windows Phones that came out last year were just slightly modified versions of Android smartphones (in terms of hardware), there were few reasons to believe that Microsoft’s re-born mobile OS was anywhere close to taking a stab at Android and Apple.

But then came the surprise announcement of the Nokia-Microsoft partnership, and WP’s chances started looking a lot better all of a sudden. Now, just a few days after the massive US launch of the AT&T Nokia Lumia 900, we have major reasons to believe that Windows Phone has finally reached an inflection point:

  1. Branding: Nokia, Microsoft, and AT&T branding on the same device. That should definitely amount to something by brand association alone.
  2. Marketing Funds: Nokia has no other chance but to spend everything they can afford on marketing campaigns. Microsoft will also undoubtedly put all its chips on the push of its mobile OS. Moreover, AT&T needs another hero device, now that the iPhone is everywhere.
  3. Hardware: The Nokia Lumia 900 is actually not a bad piece of hardware.
  4. A new and unique experience: the feeling of using the Windows Phone OS on the Nokia Lumia 900 leaves a highly distinguishable impression. It’s not just one of the bunch of smartphones that kinda look the same and do the same things. The Nokia Lumia 900 is, for all intents and purposes, a unique smartphone. Don’t underestimate the importance of being different – I think that iPhone buyers in particular are a bit fed up with those old rows of icons.
  5. Decent Price: The Lumia 900 is free on a new AT&T contract, and just $100 if you’re upgrading.

nokia lumia 900

What about Android and the iPhone?

Obviously, although Nokia and Microsoft seem to finally got their act together, it doesn’t mean the 2012 Android smartphone line-up will disappoint. On the contrary, we’re just 1/3 into the year and we’ve already seen a couple of major releases from HTC (the flagship One X and the more-than-mid-end One S are both very attractive smarphones), while Motorola’s and Samsung’s response is expected to arrive during Q2, in the form of the highly-expected Samsung Galaxy S3 and the rumored Droid Fighter. A new Google Nexus smartphone is also expected to come by the end of 2012, as are a number of low-cost high-end smartphones from Huawei and ZTE.

In the meantime, it’s highly unlikely that Apple won’t do their absolute best to top both of its competitors. After all, until recently, the US manufacturer was able to best all Android smartphone manufacturers combined, so expect the iPhone 5 to sell an impressive number of units, as was the case with all previous iterations of the iPhone.

Back to Windows Phone, even if the recent rumors that claim Microsoft will buy RIM in the near future don’t turn out to come true – a vision shared by many (myself included) – it is likely that WP will gain some momentum and start gaining market share points. Thus, an obvious question arises: who will lose the points that Microsoft will win? Will all of them come from RIM’s moribund BB OS and the half-dead Symbian? Or will Apple and Google suffer as well?

By the looks of it, 2012 will bring even more heat to the scalding-hot smartphone market. No matter if you are an Android fan or an iOS fanatic, as the end user, this should only make you happy. Competition is what drives companies to come up with better solutions at lower prices. It’s what makes technology evolve.

So, if WP takes off, who will lose market share?

[poll id=”97″]

  • iPhone? since both are focusing to be the simplest & most user friendly.

    • Shane_burgess

      there are a lot of die hard nokia users in the world that will buy in to whatever nokia do, for them to have a viable operating system, and hopefully decent spec phones wp
      should do well, i will be sticking with android as i would miss flashing custom roms too much.
      im a mac user and lover but i won’t get the iPhone as its too closed and carriers charge a monthly premium for the privilege of owning one.
      i think the general market will continue to grow with more users but similar percentages for all os.
      but as stated earlier it depends what the networks push, having worked as a manager for phones4u I know that they get certain handsets/os phones with bigger margins that they will sell to get the most commission.
      90% of consumers are sheep and wil buy what they are told is the best for them.

  • I believe geeks will keep loving Android, because of its openess and customization, so the Google OS shouldn’t lose much. On the other hand, Apple and WP have several things in common, and it’s easier for an iOS user to jump. Apple fanboys won’t change, but many current iPhone users will be attracted by the cheaper devices and the good performances of WP, and eben more when the metro UI will reach desktop PCs and tablets.

    • french toast

      I agree, but Meego would have been better, its WAY more smoother, runs on small hardware so scaling down wouldn’t be a problem, look at the success of the N9?? it was shunned by Nokia, included only a single core Cortex A8, SGX 530.(the same one that was in the Palm pre 2009).although it had decent ram 1gb and 64gb harddrive, was announced dead on arrival by Nokia, with no support going forward, no adverting….some would say even completely over priced (priced NOT to sell)..yet it out sold WP7 at a ratio 3:1 in Q4 2011……Nokia need there head testing.

  • I think too that iOS would have the most to lose, because WP (as iOS) puts so much emphasis on being easy to use. I think that the many people that use iPhones as feature phones are likely to make the switch.

    • french toast

      Pricing and carrier push is going to be key, so far WP7 phones have been too expensive for what they are…had those Nokia Lumia 800’s been sold at £350 RRP..then they would have flew off the shelves..

      One area that has been dissapointing, it the hardware, not good enough up untill Lumia 900, and even that is quite thick in comparison to HTC ONE X..which has same battery, same polycarbonate shell, bigger screen, yet is actually THINNER..i would have liked Nokia to have included a battery the size of the Droid MAXX for that thickness…

      The real battle ground will be WP8..that is where the true power of Windows will be felt…top notch hardware, more advanced software…apps that will be cross developed between Windows 8 Metro and WP8 (thats huge)..and the point in where Nokia envoke the special agreement they got for signing up, that means Pureview tech,Dolby surround sound tech,probably improvements to the ui…etc..can’t wait!

      PS, As much as i love Android for kicking on the mobile arena…i have to say i can never be considered slick….as it is the oldest mobile platform, and will ALWAYS be laggy without the highest multi core processors.

    • I would tend to agree, if only because Apple’s software is proprietary to its products, whereas you have major market choices with both Android and Windows Phone.

  • I think you forgot symbian … no 1 in star counter. phone that mostly made by … nokia

    I believe that symbian’s market share will drop as nokia try to replace it using windows phone. in that process ios and android take the most of market share.

    I believe that no 1 is android or ios

  • JZ

    People, please. I realize that this is an Android site, so folks might not want to think about Android losing market share. But friends, once WP8 comes, that is exactly what will happen.

    • Sanjay Sharma

      You JUNK man ! Havn’t you seen how all Lumia have failed in the market just because of WP even when their hardware is good ! Same story for WP8 because of same old and plain tiles interface. Microsoft has illegal relationship with Nokia to kill Symbian and sell WP but that is not succeeding at all and Nokia is dieing. The whole world knows how Nokia CEO Stephen Elop ( an ex-Microsoft employee ) has interests only in Microsoft to boost WP at any cost of Nokia. Whole world knows how he is killing Symbian ( not releasing Symbian phones in all markets, overprizing, announcing its end, no support, no ad, etc ) and trying hard to bring up WP. In this attempt, Nokia will be dead shortly and Elop will return back to Microsoft to sell Office products.

  • Spotfist

    Im not an android fanboi here as I own a Nokia, the question in the poll is not the best to be asking really. Perhaps a better poll would have been “how much percentage market share will each company lose?” I think IOs will loose more percentage wise but android will loose more in total numbers purely based on the fact that it has more customers. I personaly think the windows phone would be a good second choice for apple users simply for it’s obvious ease of use. The thing is that most cosumers arent too fussed about the OS but more so the phone, a street based poll would probably show that 80% of iphone owners don’t even know the name of their OS and I would take bets on those stats.

    My next phone would have to be android as I am a super geek but my other half would happily buy a.) whatever everyone else was buying b.) which ever was the simplest to use. Windows it seems would be the obvious choice for an ex-apple user…

    • It’s not just current smartphone owner that may switch, it’s especially current dumbphone users that will choose their first smartphone. And that’s where Nokia is strong, and a cheap and easy to use WP would win over an iPhone.

      Add that Microsoft has been recognised as the most reliable for corporate use, after Blackberry, and with the death of RIM (either with a possible acquisition by MS itself or with a slow disappearance from the markets) WP will definitely take over BB, making the platform even more appealing for new smartphone users.

      • Spotfist

        I totaly agree, when I wrote my comment I planned to mention new users but the poll seemed to imply who would move where. If I was a new user I would probably go for the Windows phone, it looks fairly simple to use what with all the big blocks whereas the iphone appears clunky and a bit too complicated. So as a basic user I go for what appears to be the basic phone…

        The problem with Apple is that they have a cunning way of roping people into buying there stuff, they seem to do the same thing as everyone else but throw in their special magic to boot, this leads to a fenzy of Apple users wanting the product which then has a knock on effect to the average joe wanting one becaue they are “cool” the iphone has become such a simple device but yet everyone has to have one, I personaly think there is only so far Apple can go before people start to look alsewhere…

        • Poll is who’s going to lose market share… so if many newbies buy WP, many buy Android, and the usual suspects keep staying with iPhone, then it’s iOS who’s going to lose share. They can keep selling millions of iPhones, even more than today, but the percentage will go down as the total number will grow a lot more.

          • french toast

            I think wp will start chipping off the other market shares, it will start to take RIM, and Apple first…beacuse it is most suited for them..as soon as WP8 arrives in 4 months with the ability top play Windows 8 apps..thats going to be a game changer.

            Read reviews of Lumia 900, people REALLY like wp7..as limited as it is…the problem is the hardware up untill now lacked features and so was unappealing for the carriers to push..i can see a windows phone storm brewing…..

          • Oliver Mills

            Limited? It’s only limited if you want to mess about with it yourself and make it ‘perfect’. I’ve owned an Android tablet in the past (since sold it), and I spent so long trying to improve it, but it just ended up crashing and being a bit waste of time and money. I know many Android users who try and fail to improve their devices this way. WP doesn’t need improving, it’s already great, and when an update comes, it’s delivered to all (at least up to WP8). There are limitations in terms of what you can do to make yours your own, but that doesn’t make the platform itself limited because it can already do so much, so well.

      • Sanjay Sharma

        Samsung is selling its Android smartphones for below Rs. 6000 ( $150 ) without any contracts. This is dragging all dumbphone users into Samsung smartphones. Hence, Nokia could sell only 71 m dumbphones last quarter, less by 25 m. So, Nokia’s dumphone will be erased soon by Samsung Android low-end smartphones.

  • Jlgroves1

    In 2-5 years RIM will be strictly a corporate security software company with very limited hardware releases (if any). Microsoft will be roughly where RIM is now in the mobile sphere; and Nokia will have moved on to a different OS. Then again, maybe everyone will have moved on to a new OS.

  • Zombie Killer

    MS has been trying to get their bullshit off the ground since the 90’s. They’ve not only failed to GAIN anything in these MANY YEARS, they’ve actually GONE BACKWARDS.

    Nokia isn’t going to pull MS out of irrelevance, MS is going to pull Nokia INTO IRRELEVANCE.

    Mark my words; it makes no difference if they try renaming their dead duck, or add more pretty pictures. Its still the same old worthless unwanted crap. The ONLY reason they have any appreciable market share on desktop computers is because of VENDOR LOCK-IN. Everyone using it SIMPLY CANNOT ESCAPE. MS is starting at the VERY BOTTOM and has NO CHANCE here, since Google ALREADY DOMINATES mobiles.

  • daran

    considering that blackberry is all ready starting to die. i say BB os will die if windows takes of or even before that probebly but android can never die seenc lots of company uses it. and its much cheaper to make android phone then windows phone.

  • Sanjay Sharma

    Windows Phone will never take off because it is inherently bad and useless OS. It has been in the market for more than 5 years and its market share has come down from 42% to just 2% because it cannot cmmpete with modern Android and iOS.

    • french toast

      Saying that you prefer a type of operating system in this case Android is one thing, blindly making things up is another…windows phone 7 has NO relashion to windows mobile…WP7 is actually the newest and slickest mobile OS out there..i personally prefer Android right this minute, and will buy GS3…BUT WP8 will blow everything else into the weeds..

      Andoid my well turn into the new symbian in 12 months…the fragmention,lag (yes even i have seen HTC ONE X lagging) and widget design style will start to look dated very soon, as will IOS…windows phone at the moment doesn’t offer the hardware or features that im looking for…but when it does i will jump to WP8 from Android.

      This auther has hit the nail on the head, windows phone will be a threat going forward becuase it offers something unique that the others dont. the Lumia 900 is getting some of the best reviews i have ever seen for a phone…

    • Baseballbert

      Wrong. Windows Mobile was first, and then MS completely revamped the platform releasing Mango 7.5 last fall. Which many consider to be the starting point of WP. Thanks for playing though!

  • Mamoon Noorestani

    Windows Phone might have a chance to take off in the first half of 2013, because soon Microsoft’s Windows Phone’s will come with 1.5 Ghz-1.8 Ghz dual-core processors and high-end specifications with a lot more new features included. But I doubt Windows Phone or BB OS will ever take off because of Google’s Android OS and Apple’s iOS.

  • Juan Perez

    with linux merging with android…………bigger problems for Microsoft failures WP8 and secureboot…….time has come for their death of mobile phones of WP………Linux kernel 3.3 with android code meaning more developers……plus with 3.4 kernel……android apps for any Linux distributions…like android market and google UI window manager for Linux….looks to me is google is preparing taking over Linux…like apple merging with steve jobs project NeXT…2014 Microsoft grave is ready or its for apple……..

  • Baseballbert

    The carriers are rooting for WP to get out,from under Apple’s clutches. Pretty funny. More iPhones sold is actually slowing customer growth. AT&T and Verizon both have said they are pulling for WP. Pretty funny!

  • Oliver Mills

    ‘WP won’t ever take off’ shouldn’t be an option in the vote, because the question ‘if WP takes off’ was asked. iPhone owners tend to have a deep attachment to their phones, it seems snobbish at times, but I can’t see them losing much share, as much as I hate to admit it. Furthermore, as they’re the most expensive smartphones, they won’t be drawn to the lower price point of WP/Android. If WP takes off, and I sincerely hope it does, it will surely be BlackBerry that suffers, with a little shaven off Android and of course the Symbian transition too. It’s exciting, and it’s just what we need – a little more competition, and a little more choice.

    For those of you that haven’t yet tried WP OS: it’s brilliant.

  • Czepeda

    i hate nokia, at&t and windows phones..this is my worse nighmare