BlackBerry's struggles last year may have given a boost to software giant Microsoft and its biggest hardware partner, Nokia, in the race for third place in the U.S. smartphone market, a report says.
Apple's iPhone and the range of devices powered by Google's Android operating system still hold the top spots here. But Windows Phone has pulled ahead of devices made by Canadian BlackBerry (formerly known as Research In Motion) for the first time since 2006, according to the Wireless Smartphone Strategies service of research firm Strategy Analytics.
According to Strategy Analytics, market share for Windows Phone in the U.S. reached above 3 percent, whereas BlackBerry dipped just below 2 percent of total smartphones shipped in the fourth quarter. Apple and Android captured the rest of the market.
The Boston-based firm also saw some slippage for Android in total 2012 shipments for the first time since Android's debut in 2007, raising the question of whether the open-source platform, available on dozens of devices by numerous manufacturers, is reaching its peak. The same question was asked about iOS after sales of the iPhone 5 fell short of some Wall Street projections in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Data from Nielsen Research for the third quarter showed Microsoft with only a 2 percent market share in the U.S. compared with Research In Motion's 7 percent.
"BlackBerry shipments reached a new low, whereas Windows Phone based smartphone shipments reached a new high during Q4 2012," said analyst Neil Shah of Strategy Analytics.
As an explanation, Shah said both Nokia and Taiwan-based HTC, which also makes Windows phones, expanded their presence on the shelves of three out of the four top U.S. carriers, which actively promoted those devices.
Also, "a bunch of differentiated and high-value Nokia branded apps , services and technologies such as Nokia Drive, Nokia Music, Nokia City Lens, PureView camera, Wireless Charging, etc., helped Nokia to drive demand and capture the lion's share of those Windows Phone volumes. Nearly three out of five Windows Phones shipped in Q4 2012 were Nokia Lumia smartphones."
We asked Shah if sluggish BlackBerry sales at the end of last year may be a result of waiting for release of the updated BlackBerry 10 operating system and a new line of devices this year.
"I estimate overall very few people were really 'anticipating' for the new BlackBerry smartphones," he responded. "It was rather due to the continued nose-diving demand for the BlackBerry platform in Q4 2012 in contrast to the rising interest for devices from competing platforms."
"However, this hype for the new BlackBerry 10 has built up post-launch rather than spiking in Q4 2012 to affect BlackBerry holiday season sales."
That means 2013 should shape up for an interesting competition between the BB10-based portfolio at multiple carriers and the flagship Windows Phone devices.
"It's actually going to be Nokia vs. BlackBerry in second half of 2013," Shah concluded. "While both will actively compete with each other, they will also try to capture share away from market leaders Apple and Samsung."