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The journalist's guide to reading tea leaves aka AdDuplex Windows Phone Stats

For more than three years we have been producing a monthly report on the state of Windows Phone device ecosystem. We try to stick to the facts we can see in our data and leave the interpretation to analysts and journalists. Sometimes this results in interesting insights by the likes of Paul Thurrott or Windows Central, other times people manage to see things that just aren't there, and from time to time they use our data to prove their agenda. Quite often incorrectly.

Last week it happened so, that we've published our regular monthly report around the same time as Microsoft published their quarterly results. Microsoft's quarter didn't paint a pretty picture for Lumia devices, and our report was, well, regular. Nothing significant really happened as far as Windows Phone usage is concerned. This is not a good sign per se, but there's nothing to suggest that the sky is falling either.

However quite a few big media outlets decided that our report is a good corroborating data to the fact that " Windows Phone is dead". First, Business Insider noticed that " Microsoft's most popular phone is nearly 3 years old" and now The Motley Fool is concluding that " AdDuplex Brings Bad News for Microsoft Windows Phone. The most popular Windows Phone is three years old (opens in new tab)".

[Editor's note: And yes, even Windows Central fell into the trap with similar reporting, which is why we are running this story as a correction.]

So, I decided to clarify a few things…

Lumia 520 has been the most popular Windows Phone for years. If I remember correctly, it became the most popular Windows Phone just two months after its release and stayed there ever since. If you want to look for reasons why this is the case, I will give you two:

  1. Nokia/Microsoft sell most of their phones on the low end. That's not news to anyone. I'm pretty sure the same can be said about every major manufacturer except for Apple. And that's just because they have nothing to sell there.
  2. When Lumia 520 was released, it was an immediate hit because it provided the best value in its segment and it was almost the only model in that segment for a long, long time. Fast forward to the next generation of Windows Phones and you see Nokia/Microsoft going crazy with the range of models. Anything from 430 to 640 competed with their own offerings to become the next 520. They lacked focus to produce a real 530, but if you combine the usage of post-520 low-end phones with 52x you'll see that there's 3x more newer low-end Windows Phones in use than there are phones of the 52x variety:

AdDuplex Measures Usage, not Sales

While a dramatic decrease in sales is objective news, the fact that the most popular phone in use is nearly three years old is not. Let me show you why.

I don't know of a better place to check usage stats for other platforms than what Unity provides. Considering that most of the Unity games are on the higher end of hardware requirements, we can assume that the numbers are a little (a lot?) skewed towards the high-end. Let me know if there is a better source and if it paints a different picture. But even if we look at the Unity numbers, here's what we see:

Yes, nearly 2.5 years old would be closer to the fact but it doesn't sound as good, does it?

As you can see from the Unity data a "nearly 3 years old" iPhone has much more of iOS market share than Lumia 520 has on the Windows side.

Additionally, if you look at the top ten, you will see a phone that is nearly 4 years old (iPhone 5), nearly 5 years old (iPhone 4S), nearly 6 years old (iPhone 4) and a tablet that is nearly 5 years old (iPad 2).

I will leave the interpretation of these numbers to someone who has a more creative imagination than I do.

Same Unity data, same result – Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0, released in the summer of 2013 is the most popular Android device in use.

By the time this data was collected Samsung Galaxy S6 has been on the market for half a year. Where do you think it is in the chart? It's number 31 (if I counted correctly) with 0.8% share.

I'll just leave it here.

All-in-all 3-year-old usage leader seems to be the norm in this industry, and there's absolutely no news here. Let's move on to discussing something productive.

This article is a guest-post written by Alan Mendelevich of AdDuplex and approved by the editorial team at Windows Central.

82 Comments
  • This article was really needed! Now haters gonna stop for good! Great article Alan( are you new here?)
  • Yup
  • Not new, he's a guest writer from AdDuplex
  • Nice to have someone from AdDuplex themselves contributing!
  • Thanks! Definitely not new here, but I don't comment a lot :)
  • The most popular windows phone is Lumia 520 and I own one running Windows 10...
  • Thanks for this article!
  • Leaves not leafs (sorry if that sounded rude, unintentional). Welcome to the community.
  • Where's his editor it's been half an hour now Posted from my Note 5
  • Unless you're from Toronto!  :D
  • Thankyou....Now we can go back to our daily BS.....idiots saying its dead.....like the same analogy can be made that Android MARSHMELLOW, or even LOLLIPOP is never going to get off the ground because its numbers are so low through some reporting measurement.   Doesn't mean jack.....
  • Seconded :P
  • In case you missed it, Windows Phone sales collapsed in the last quarter...even in the strong European markets. The platform has almost ceased to exist at all in the US.
  • Windows mobile is still dead tho' Posted from my Note 5
  • No. Only you say so.
  • I managed to summon Pallav the Denier Posted from my Note 5
  • Thanks for the compliment.
  • Apple is rotten.
    Posted from my ass
  • Yes, my Windows Mobile dies every night until I charge it again!   BTW..yes windows mobile died with 6.5.  Long live Windows Phone!
  • WRONG WRONG WRONG!!! You are waaaaay the **** wrong! Windows Mobile is back!  Peek-a-boo!
  • Very true. Considering the fact that it's been years since Windows Mobile was updated XD it's been called Windows Phone (and recently Windows 10 Mobile recently) so yeah, the old windows mobile is dead. Who uses windows mobile 6.5 anymore?
  • Nice article!
  • That was a brilliant perspective! Thanks a lot!
  • Good one
  • Really interesting article
  • The one basic principle of statistical analysis, "If you don't like the results, manipulate the data."
  • Thanks for the clarification, though it should probably be made more obvious that this was written by someone at AdDuplex and not WindowsCentral.
  • Agreed. Also, the editor's note should precede the article, not be buried in the middle.
  • Awesome article!!!
  • Statistics can be used in anyway to prove what the person organisation using them want to show or their agenda.
  • Or they can be used to gain some genuine insight. It all depends on how well you understand the analysis being done, how well you explain it your audience, and how much intellectual honesty you bring to bear not the problem. I noticed some of the flaws described in this article, and I'm glad that the WC crew (with the help of AD) is taking the time to clear things up. Explaining data is hard, but sometimes it's the best way to really understand an issue. (And long live my 520.)
  • Or as someone famously stated: There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.
  • We really hope the windows phones ecosystem would continue to growth and maintain. I am proud to be the 1.7% user of the world. The OS itself is much better than the Android system.
  • You would think that people would have figured out by now how great Windows phone is. Maybe they haven't because it actually sucks. Even people who bought then in the past have upgraded to other platforms. That is what it means when your market share plummets. Repeat buyers are few and far between. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • where are you haters..
  • Reality......depends on the viewpoint lol. Appreciated article - thanks Alan :)
  • Brilliant article. Extra brownie points for showing the truth.
  • Great article thanks A Duplex now can we get back to being the brave ones who fight for a world of diversity in mobile OS's ? :)
  • Windows mobile isn't diversity. They are all exactly the same. Android brings more diversity by itself when you take all the flavors into consideration. Windows Phone is not needed, its mediocre user experience just fragments the market. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Excellent article Alan! Hope this put an end to the current Doom&Gloom wave... Which frankly is going out of hand
  • Long live Windows mobile !!
  • Where are all the nay sayers who were beating their chests saying they were right?
  • I'm here.
  • These numbers may well have been misused in some news articles but wasnt it the fact that Lumia sales declined to only 4.5 million sold and worldwide marketshare had dropped to 1.9% that prompted the observation that WP/W10M is dead? I dont see this clarification as changing that fact which is obviously what led Tencent to dropping their W10M plans and the death predictions.....
  • It's a bad move by Tencent. With W10 being the fastest growing platform right now, not being there allows for competition to move in. W10M doesn't stand alone anymore. Even if you don't think being on W10M doesn't make sense due to small populous, it still makes sense because it's not just for phones anymore and that crowd is currently the fastest growing software group right now. That's why smarter companies are continuing with their plans to build for W10M despite the negative energy currently on the internet and being repeated by the unfaithful faithfuls.
  • Well, I didn't have any intention to go any wider than addressing the misuse of the numbers. Yes, the sales collapsed and they may never recover, or it could be the other way around. Keep in mind that these are quarterly sales and every quarter starts anew. Still the trend is not really good.
  • I still use Lumia 520 it is much more stable than my friend's an year old Android.
  • Can we collectively stop validating Motley Fool's existence? They are by far the worst variety of misleading clickbait mongers. On the same level as the "lose weight with this one weird trick"-ers.
  • Still doesn't dispel the fact that WP, through mismanagement by MS, is basically dead.
  • No, but fanboys here are clinging to this article as a teddy bear to tell them otherwise.  
  • My thought too, but figured let it be and not post it.
  • This wasn't the intention. The only purpose of the article was to demonstrate that data used to validate some conclusions doesn't validate them at all. The overall state of the ecosystem is another matter altogether.
  • Alan: Thanks for coming and helping set the facts out there for people to see the whole playground and the fact that not only Windows 10 Mobile/Windows Phone has older devices atop their most used lists. WindowsCentral: Thanks for allowing Alan / AdDuplex to come and guest post - much appreciated.
  • Still doesn't change the fact that people have abandoned the platform. Sales dropped considerably, even after the release of new flagships. There is nothing that will change that trend in the near future. It will be tough for Windows phones to rebound with no significant devices in the pipeline. It may be a year or more before Microsoft releases something new. Windows Mobile will likely die in the meantime. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Best article!
  • Theefman a number of factors may have caused figures to look that way. The flagships were being released so alot of people held back on buying waiting for them. Will be interesting to see what the figures look like in a few months its a snapshot at a point in time. If you look at sales figures before the release of the next ios device there is always a dip.
  • so - after commenting here - i scrolled back up to see the other new comments and noticed that all the "positive" or "i like the article" comments are all getting down votes... so what gives? Yes... this also includes my comment too just above... Its a shame when the WC readers - critical or not - have to resort to putting down votes on comments that just appreciate the fact someone wrote an article. I'll repeat - what a shame...
  • Sometimes, when reality crashes in on your bitter little imaginary world, all you can do is take it out on a little down arrow...
  • Yeah... It's been like this for some time now on both this site and "that other" site who covers Windows-news. Negative posts get the most upvotes and positive votes get bashed and downvoted. It isn't strange to see the numbers when everybody who has something positive to say gets sawed in half by these other "fans" who doesn't even use the handsets/system that gets mentioned.
  • Interesting how all the positive posts get downmodded. I'd say, if you're being honest, despite the fact that W10M kinda collapsed (planned because of reorganisation), there's a lot of truth to this article. I see tons of people use iPhone 4S.5S models and older Androids. Ah who am I kidding, can't reason with the Windows "fans" that rather see their platform crash and burn so they can point the finger at somebody to blame. What a wonderful world we live in! Downmod me while you're reading this will you?  Shouldn't break the neverending downward spiral into blackness after all! god forbid people actually embrace good articles like this.
  • Change 'Windows "fans"'  to 'screaming Nokia bots'.  Then it makes sense.  
  • Jmajid Narathan they have no choice they have been bleeting on for the past few days!
  • Just the kind of knowledgeable article that is all but absent from the tech media. I wonder how long it will take for the Verge etc to admit they didn't know what the heck they were talking about? Of the Fool to admit her lived up to his name?
  • Everyone is praising this article but it was so poorly put together that its amazing. It does not discuss the contiually falling market share of windows phones. Market share that dropped to 1%. If you do not see this as an issue then you are ignorant. Developers will not work on the platform for a piece of 1% of the pie. Measuring usage is important, engagement is whats important for sales. If someone buys a phone and then puts it away that means nothing. They won't buy any apps, etc.    I see a lot of people in the comments saying that the drop was by design, no it was not. No one in their right mind would create a business environment to drop their market share to 1%. The reduced number of phones sold was not a result of the reduced number of phones being made but a lack of interest in the platform which is why they reduced the number of phones they were making in the first place. The banking apps are gone, you can't order coffee from an app, and apps are neglected by developers. Tell me again how this WIndows on phones is not a dead platform? Just because it exists does not mean its viable. I would love for WIndows phone to be competative so I could keep using it but I want the convenince of having the apps available to me instead of crappy mobile pages that don't have all the features of an app.
  • Thank you for your comment, Jared. I just wanted to point out that the article was not intended to prove that everything is green and rosy in the Windows Phone/Mobile world. It's only goal was to address the fact that data used to validate "Windows Phone is dead" narrative doesn't validate it at all. That's it.
  • I get your angst about apps but I dont really see how that translates to the phones(nothing has changed in US anyway). other than the 950/550 in the last month what exactly have MS offered as a new device recently (nothing basically) "Oh and by the way we are releasing a new OS w10m". The options for most is just to wait. I am not saying what will happen but I can say iphone sales drop to 50-60% over the year from release. Most people are not interested and wait for the new phones and OS. I get peoples concern... yet the events are inline with consumer habits elsewhere so whats the fact of note? there really isnt one.... Q1 Q2 yes this will be the quarters that actually say something of value.  
  • Ok Il tell you again just because it doesn't have every app does make it dead. There you go. Its now not just windows on phones that's the point its on millions and millions of pcs that are growing. Its on thousands of xbox's that are growing. We have seen some new big name apps coming through since windows 10 and it should start to continue as long as people don't keep claiming the thing is dead when it isn't. I'm not saying its perfect and your right any loss isn't good enough and I do think MS need to try harder but don't be fooled into thinking the cup is half empty when its half full and being topped up.
  • I agree. I think a very pessimistic view is to just look at Windows Phone and think it's dead. A better way to look at it is to take in the overall picture.  Windows 10 is on over 200 million PCs.  Windows 10 on Xbox will grow. Windows tablets are selling very well (over 1 billion in revenue).
  • Over 1 billion and thats just what MS sold. 
  • Lol the tab3 7.0" its seeing its age as it's stuck on jellybean & the certificates have expired for chrome/chromium & it never had accessory support unlike 8 & 10
  • Great article, it's a shame that no one will actually use their brain, when it's easier to throw crap at MS.
  • Manipulation of statistics still doesn't change the fact that Windows Phone/10 Mobile is dead. No matter how hard deluded people want to believe otherwise. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • You really should have more respect for the dead, then, and just let it be, don't you think?  
  • Nah, you're just a little hurt that Microsoft bought Nokia. There are plenty of Android-phones for you out there though.
  • Then why comment here if your so convinced ? Thanks I must be deluded to have a different opinion.
  • Nice article. Just when i thought of jumping to iOS, this article somehow made me stay with my 640XL and 1520. So, plan of action Windows Phone loyalists, use your apps more and more.
  • The problem of Windows phone it's the app gap there is the endemic problem, nobody wants do an app here even nobody gets any insight with the universal apps, one example instagram haven't done anything why not do their app UWP and take advantage of the computer market? Or want to say that Windows 10 tablets aren't mobile at all? Just they don't have any expectation for the platform and that is all besides of be in their comfort zone where wants gets money easy with an platform that ensure them be massive but that is its a bit old and don't help at all
  • Most people use rudy's app anyway and I am sure instagram(6tag) is next 6tin is a UWA now.
  • this should be posted on theverge :) and shut their mouth.
  • Those are iJournalists; what else would you expect from such species?
  • As of nov. 2015 ms has stopped the word windows mobile. Its win 10 on different devices, it may be a laptop, pc, xbox, hololens or handhelds. And beleive me win 10 is here to stay. First among handhelds tablets will see a jump in no. and then devices less than 6 inches. Let the haters keep on praying, win 10 is going only up.
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