The figures are out: Android and iOS are stomping all over Windows Phone and BlackBery in the United States. Is there room for a third operating system? Recent numbers from Nielsen certainly don’t suggest it.
Here’s what’s going on: Apple has tackled both the premium and entry-level markets by offering its iPhone 4S as a high-end device and its still wildly popular iPhone 4 as an entry-level phone. Android, meanwhile, is available across the board in free handsets up to $300 packed-to-the-brim-with-features smartphones. BlackBerry’s market share is sliding — no surprise, the company hasn’t introduced a new handset that shows any level of innovation in years — and Windows Phone is just starting to take off. But how can Windows Phone win?
Microsoft, Nokia and AT&T are placing bets on the Lumia 900 — a $99 4G LTE device that is arguably one of the most delicious phones I’ve set eyes on in the past 12 months. And it needs to be a smash hit in order to take consumer attention off of competing operating systems. Nielsen found that 91% of U.S. consumers who purchased a smartphone during a three-month period ended in February chose iOS or Android. 91%. And just 5% chose a BlackBerry smartphone. That leaves a 4% market for Windows Phone. Any growth will likely come at the expense of RIM at this point, which gives it just about 5% of wiggle room, assuming that every BlackBerry defector chooses a Windows Phone and not an iOS or Android device.
Sure, Windows Phone has the potential to dig into Android or Apple’s market share, but it’s going to take a lot more than just a single flagship handset on a single carrier. The iPhone is available on three of the four top U.S. carriers and you can buy an Android device from the bodega on the corner. Yes, I’m aware there are other Windows Phone devices on the market, but this is the creme de la creme. If it doesn’t succeed, which phones will? The Lumia 900 is the device that will determine, at least in the short term, whether or not Nokia can make a comeback and whether or not consumers are ready for a third mobile operating system. I want it to happen, but I just can’t see Windows Phone stealing a huge chunk of the U.S. mobile market just yet.
It will take time, but it can’t take too long. If Microsoft stalls on innovative updates the company’s OS will go the way of BlackBerry and webOS. We’ll see future versions of Microsoft’s mobile OS that will no doubt pair better with its Windows 8 desktop operating system. I think that’s when we’ll finally see consumers begin to gravitate towards Windows Phone, if it’s done right.
As for RIM? We’ll have to wait until May when it unveils its new BB10 operating system for the world to see. But we’re not holding our breaths for that to hit the market any time soon.
For now, it’s all about iOS and Android and I don’t see anything else standing in the way.