Windows Phone sales up 124% for Q4 2012 but still dwarfed by Android, iOS

Gartner has released their data for smartphone sales and market share for the fourth quarter in 2012 and while the data is not conclusive by itself, it does show general trends in where the market is heading.

For Microsoft and partners the picture is most certainly better than it was one year ago, which is the good news. The bad news is the hill to climb to global relevancy is still as massive as ever, mostly due to the continued growth of Android (specifically Samsung) and iOS. Meanwhile BlackBerry (formerly RIM), is still bleeding heavily prior to its transition to BB10, showing a massive decline in sales.

First, let’s look at Windows Phone as compared to the others. From Gartner:

“While Android grew 87.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, RIM declined 44.4 percent in the same period. Microsoft had a better fourth quarter, with its share growing 1.2 percentage points, and its smartphone sales increasing 124.2 percent year-on-year.”

That growth of 1.2% brings Windows Phone smartphone sales up to 3% globally or roughly 6M units (versus 1.8% this time last year). At a 124% increase, that makes Windows Phone the fastest growing OS in terms of device sales when compared to iOS (declined), Android (+87%) and BlackBerry (-44%). That is quite impressive considering worldwide smartphone sales were down 1.7% for 2012.

Breaking it down by manufacture we can see companies like Nokia are still losing ground dipping to 19.1% (from 23.8%) and even poor HTC is dejected at 1.8% (from 2.4% one year earlier). The big winner is Samsung (up 85% at 23% market share) and surprisingly Huawei, who is now the #3 smartphone vendor is the world (see, we told you to keep an eye on the recent Windows Phone partner).

Blackberry got clobbered in 2012, pushing 34M units versus 52M the year prior. As an OS, BlackBerry dropped from 8.8% in 2011 to just 3% in 2012 in the fourth quarter. That’s due to the fact that their BB7 OS was put out to pasture and the market was forced to wait for BB10. In that sense, BlackBerry is no different than where Microsoft was during the Windows Mobile/Windows Phone transition and such a decline is expected.

What is clear from these numbers is BlackBerry has a hole to dig themselves out of while Microsoft, with 124% growth, may finally be taking off. Of course that assumes that Microsoft’s growth continues and that Q4 wasn’t a “blip”—that’s a big “if” because to be honest Windows Phone has not shown itself to be a market leader so far.

What about that battle for third in terms of OEMs? Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, has this to say on the matter:

“There is no manufacturer that can firmly lay claim to the No. 3 spot in global smartphone sales”.

Indeed the same could be said about OS where BlackBerry is still ahead of Windows Phone (3.5% vs 3%). By all accounts Microsoft should have locked up that position in 2012 while RIM was nose-diving. Instead, they now have a competitor who is only limping but recovering—that’s dangerous.

Perhaps more importantly, no matter how well Windows Phone does, Samsung with Android is nearly impossible to catch. In fact, Samsung dominates Android with a massive 42% of that OS’s sales where their next competitor is only at 6%. Clearly Samsung is a juggernaut.

Will Windows Phone continue its growth? Will Nokia make a return in sales with its Mobile World Congress announcements? It's a tough call but at least things are positive—it’s just a question if it will remain so and if it’s enough.

Source: Gartner

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • I can't believe BlackBerry is still number 3. It was a golden oppertinity in 2011-2012 to really push it below and be number 3. 
  • Market share is very hard to get a full grasp on. What you really have to focus on here is the growth. Look at the growth Windows Phone had year over year versus the fall Research in Motion took.
  • The market is saturated so its hard to gain marketshare. BlackBerry is still ahead because a lot of people are stil using their old BlackBerry's. Microsoft sold a lot of phones, just not as much as all BlackBerry's that are stil in use.
    I also think the 'dwarved by iOS/Android statement should go without saying, if it is ever to change then it will take years if not a decade. But Microsoft is well on there way to hit a critical mass. At which point word of mouth can have a meaningful impact on sales. With any luck at the end of 2013 at least half of the potential buyers will know WP8 exists. Right now too few people even know its an option to have a phone with Windows on it.
  • I think you misread the data table. Those are the number of phones sold in 2012, not the number of phones in use. Blackberry is still ahead because they are selling more phones. Mostly to businesses.
    As sad as it is, a lot of businesses rely on blackberries. I have not been able to convince my CEO to switch to Windows Phone because he believes PTT Walkie Talkie is a required, must-have feature for our line of business and Blackberry is the only phone on Verizon that has this feature AND is tailored for business use. The only other option is android...
  • Among businesses, blackberrys still dominate.  Most of us are forced to use two devices.  And I cannot imagine living without my blackberry for business purposes.  I need that keyboard.  For everything else, its Windows all the way.
  • This is great news for WP user's. More attention and sales means more great apps and accessories. 
  • Well growth albeit small is growth. Now that talks of kernels and not being able to update have passed. I think people will be less wary to choose WP. Though Microsoft still has alot of work to do when it comes to apps in the store.
  • Samsung shows their customers nowhere near the love WP users have gotten from Nokia.
  • I send them jeers whenever I can when I see ads for any of their other products...they dumb. :S
  • The numbers say otherwise.
  • Can customer appreciation really be translated directly to sales though?
  • I wonder if customer satisfaction is a key factor here.
    The amount of times a customer gets dumped and left with an unsuccessful phone that never receives updates should have a serious effect on that companies future profits.  I know HTC are guilty of this, ditto for LG.
  • It's a steep hill to climb, but growth is a positive sign. I still have hope for the platform.
  • I sincerely hope Nokia doesn't not mess up with their production and supply when they launch future Windows Phones. I had to wait 2 weeks in India to get my hands on an 820 for my sis. They would have sold way more Lumias worldwide if not for their supply issues.
  • Well they WERE invaded by the"tax police" =P
  • Lol
  • Hi!
    Can someone explain the supply issues that Nokia has? Nokia has amazing phones... But it really needs to work on logistics and distribution.
  • Doubling market share in a year isn't bad, but I agree MS missed an opportunity to really steal users from BB. Port advertising prior to the release of the 920 and then the appalling shortages of that handset while it was in high demand are alot of the problem. Those are Management failings. So to was the lack of good WP8 handsets over the holidays to compete with Samsung's tsunami of affordable Roids at Christmas. This too is a management mistake. MS should have picked up the tab for unsold 920's to allow Nokia to flood the US with them at lower risks. So what's missing is good Management. The same culprit that is preventing WP8 from selling itself as the perfect music, gaming and business machine due to MS's appallingly incompetent handling of DRM and sync issues and the lack of XBox gaming support. I'd the people are not as good or better than the technology, the technology becomes irrelevant. Apple has stumbled since losing Jibs. BB has actually managed an impressive reinvention since losing its Founders. Meanwhile MS continues to wobble forth, caught in its own muddy swamp of uncooperative turf Barons and unclear, poorly executed priorities.
  • You nailed it.  
  • "This too is a management mistake. MS should have picked up the tab for unsold 920's to allow Nokia to flood the US with them at lower risks." I think that cash flow (and the need to not make a loss) played a big part in the low numbers of 920's too. But going back to the Lumia 920 launch event and Nokia lost 14% of its share price on the day since the analysts wrote it off as a bad offering. Even the early reviews slammed the weight, yet its actually a popular phone (and even dainty movie stars can handle its weight ;) ). I bet they wish they still had one of those older factories going full steam on the 920, even today looking at the 620 I reckon they are woefully short on supply. That device should be selling 8+ million a quarter imo, its just perfectly well rounded on looks and specifications.
  • I would like to see US only numbers.  Simply because RIM does better outside the US right now; I have a strong feeling that WP is the #3 in the US as of Q4 2012.  However, with BB10, will they be able to keep it?
    I think Microsoft has to really drive the enterprise home.  I know multiple  people with RIM devices for work that want to go touch and their employers only offer iOS.  This is a huge hurdle that they need to overcome but could quickly see many devices added.
  • if the rumors are true with Blue if Windows 8 and Phone 8 somehow merge ecosystems then you can see alot more PC OEM's jumping on the WIndows Phone bandwagon. 
    The problem now is WP releases 3 handsets while Android releases at least 5 or more. We are out numbered when it comes to handsets and carrier support but it's an uphill battle. 
    Here is a train of thought of at least 10% of Windows 8 and Xbox Gamers users decide to try a Windows Phone that can do wonders for the ecosystem. This is something that RIM doesn't have and can bite them in the long run. 
  • Progress is progress. 1% is better than a shrink in your market share.
  • A lot of grammar errors in the article.... Hopefully BB10 doesn't stop Microsoft's momentum.
  • It will because not all WP8 can connect to the corporate network.
  • LOL, er.. most corporates run Exchange (or now Office 365)
    Windows Phone connects to EAS (Activesync) just fine. In fact, you can ditch your Blackberry BES server, and Blackberry data plans. Windows Phone is an excellent fit!
  • numbers manipulation only. Here 1% there 1%. For competition with android and ios not enough. Ms does not. History repeats like with wp7.
  • This years rumoured (and hopefully true) stage three PureView, if marketed correctly, could be the turning point for the whole OS and ecosystem. Mind you I have predicted this before...
  • Because the percentage of available wp8 devices are peas compared to Android.
  • Samsung doing well doesn't annoy me, its the fact that they don't deserve to be doing well, look at how innovative the competiotion is, but yet samsung continues to grow while the others fall, it makes me sick . . .
  • They did it right with the galaxy branding. Its so well known worldwide! Look at how many galaxies they're churning. Lots of versions! Buyers, as long as the see and here "Galaxy," that's what they gonna get.
  • They are giving buyers what they want. Its pretty simple MS just don't seem to understand that they can't afford their purist design philosophy if they want to sell to the masses.
  • I agree Microsoft doesn't know what people want as they're clueless regarding the mobile space. They had a chance to really nail it with the WP8 release but it's been plaqued with issues and inconsistencies with their own apps not working well together like the inability to sync XBOX video fiasco. They're too slow and will always be a niche player in this space.
  • Got to remember that its only been around 1 month since some devices have been release on all networks. It the uk the Lumia was only available on ee but now almost all have it. I expect the growth to be much better in the next set of results. Still its progress
  • I would have expected more growth over 4th quarter 2011 because nothing was going on then.  Overall, these numbers are discouraging but as Microsoft says, it is a marathon not a sprint.  I just hope WP doesn't hit the wall at mile 20 and become a DNF.
  • I would be concerned if I were Nokia. Because by those numbers, they've lost a lot of people using Symbian from 2011 to 2012 and they clearly did NOT switched to a Windows Phone. (I bet more than half switched to Android and the others to iOS leaving a small percentage who actually switched to WP). So it may be time for Nokia to think if they want to keep only WP in their phones. In which case they should start making a lot more preassure regarding Microsoft to make sure the OS is vastly improved (the thing with Data Sense, for example, is a big failure from MS. They made it a key feature in their presentation of WP8 and then left it out of the phones worldwide, leaving the app to
    Or maybe it's time Nokia starts thinking about the replacement for Symbian and that will obviously have to be Android. Even though Samsung dominates the Droid market, Nokia's build and camera capabilities are very likely to take customers out of Samsung if they implement the same OS. But let's see how the market develops.
    I'm not surprised at Huawei's growth though. China has over 2 billion inhabitants. And being the company Chinese, it has that advantage of reaching out for the Asian market way easier than European and American companies. I don't expect Europeans to choose Huawei over Nokia or Samsung but I except the Asian markets - specially China - to choose Huawei over Nokia and Samsung.
  • I dont think the average consumer buys a phone based on the OS. Android is as big as it is because it as pushed a lot of different models in all price categories. Nokia is trying to provide something for each corner of the market as well but if you walk into a store right now there are just too few Windows Phones to be found. 8 out of 10 are Android so naturally the average consumer has Android.
    I dont think Nokia could have made a significant impact with Android. There phone would be just another phone on the Android pile. Now they have to push for carriers and retailers to pick up there phones but when they do they stand out.
  • They blew it by not releasing Lumia 620 earlier and they need a mid range 720 asap, that will help them reach new customers. The late Surface fall release was also a mistake, if at the end of 2013 market share will be 9% Microsoft should be ecstatic. 
  • Idk why people are overstressing this. These are good numbers especially the previous ones showing how much of the market share WP has gained. You can't just expect it to rise to the top of the list when android and iOS have been around for long years and WP finally has a mention able product that can at least show a presence in the mobile world. WP7 was a good foot in the door and this (WP8) brings WP into a new world. So saying it's getting owned by iOS and Android doesn't mean anything as a real competitor hasn't been around for nearly as long
  • The fact is for 2012, RIM was technically sidelined and MS should have surpassed them in market share. Instead, MS is still behind and now BB has a new OS and momentum going. The Android/iOS thing just shows that despite their age, they (especially Android) are still rapidly growing, squeezing out any room for a non-distant third alternative. If Windows Phones never gets past 5% market share, it will simply never be taken very seriously. 
  • MS released a new OS while BB users all hold back while waiting for BB10 and still BB sold better than WP. Plus BB10 got a shitload of good press reviews in the non-tech mainstream press. Also the rumor that MS will give an exclusive license to Nokia to develop their own branch of the WP OS line won't help WP as most people will then even more ignore Samsung or HTC WPs if these handsets don't run the latest Nokia WP version....
  • "Also the rumor that MS will give an exclusive license to Nokia to develop their own branch of the WP OS line..."
    There is no such rumor.
  • Yea, like there was no rumor about WP7.8 that you ignored until it was officially announced by MS....
    I quite honestly don't understand all that criticism towards Microsoft and Nokia. Don’t forget that this numbers are from the last year and not much was happening back then. Nokia had a lot of shortages and WP8 was not even introduced in most of the countries. This can’t happen overnight and will take some obviously.
    Blackberry on the other hand still had a large group of followers, which is as you can see is shrinking. As I was saying already 2012 is not a game changer by any means. Nokia is still an underdog in US (however I do understand why they decided to introduce WP8 devices here first). So let’s see what will happen during the next couple of month. Hopefully after Nokia (and some other companies) introduce the line-up refresh (as the bad publicity of the current devices did not help obviously - large, heavy…), people will start looking at WP8 as something to consider instead of looking at it from a distance. China, India, Eastern Europe have a really strong Nokia affiliation. The only problem I see now is the availability.  
    Also Microsoft should start doing a better job at delivering what’s promised. It’s ridiculous that the biggest software company can’t deliver even the most trivial functionality finished, a lot of stuff is either not there or feels like beta version (like back-ups, notification, volume control). During my 4 years as an iPhone user I never experienced any issues with the app store. How many times has this happened to the MS store already? I just don’t get it. But let’s hope that some lessons have been learned and going forward MS will do a better job…
  • Nokia is to blame, factories in S.Korea and S.America that made the L900 should have been manufacturing the L920 in 2012 to mid 2013 as it was clear that there would be delays and quality issues in China. With their production Nokia would have been able to ship better quality and more L920s earlier on. The real test will be 2013, I believe that 6% market share for WP8 can be achieved if HTC, Nokia and Huawei ship good hardware in sufficient quantities and if MS ads the notification center and the ability to email downloaded document files without cloud use.
  • Well, I just sold 3 Lumia's to people (2 920's and 1 820) so... Since I can work soon, maybe I should work at the AT&T store and increase market share to 25% single-handedly lol
  • Everything thinks Android is hard to catch...disagree.  This is a fickle market.  There are probably a thousand different phones with Android running on them around the world.  Android phones are offered by every major carrier in every market.  Of all shapes, sizes and prices.  So yeah, it will dominate.  But Windows will soon have those advantages.  And then....things will change rapidly.  Just need to get to the tipping point.
  • Microsoft should drop windows phone development, give source code to nokia and switch to android. Visual studio for android development would be awesome. Lets face it. People do not like wp7 or wp8. No idea why cause I love my lumia with wp8 but I am just one of the very few people. I also develop wp apps and find the number of downloads beyond pathetic. People are downloading very few free apps and almost no paid ones. Wp8 release did not change that trend much. I do not think this situation would change dramatically in the next 2-3 years. I also do not intend to pay for one more year of wpdev account.
  • 80% of People are sheep just follow trends! Have know idea what technology their into! Death to Linux malware-infection BS! Long live Microsoft Windows NT 6.2
  • Funny how when it comes to fashion or cars people want something exclusive that few others have. But when it comes to phones there is a herd mentality.