IDC: Windows Phone shipments vault past BlackBerry in Q1

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Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone posted the largest year-over-year shipment gains of any smartphone operating system, eclipsing BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) in the race to challenge marketplace leaders Android and iOS, research firm IDC reports. 

Vendors shipped 7 million Windows Phone units worldwide during the first quarter of 2013, up 133 percent from 3 million during the first three months of 2012 and increasing the platform's global market share from 2 percent to 3.2 percent. IDC credits the operating system's growth to Nokia (NYSE:NOK), which accounted for 79 percent of all Windows Phone shipments during the quarter. Nokia has now shipped 20.3 million Windows Phone devices to date.

BlackBerry shipments declined to 6.3 million during the first quarter, plummeting 35.1 percent from 9.7 million during the year-ago period. BlackBerry's market share slipped from 6.4 percent to 2.9 percent. "BlackBerry realized double-digit declines from a year ago, but this masks the progress that the company has made since then," IDC notes. "In its first quarter of availability, BlackBerry formally introduced and shipped more than a million units running on its new BB10 platform, a significant breakthrough for the company. At the same time, BlackBerry still relied on its BB7 smartphones for the majority of its shipment volume, which, due to their lower prices, were well received within key markets."

Both Windows Phone and BlackBerry remain far off the pace established by Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS, however. Manufacturers shipped 162.1 Android smartphones during the first quarter, a 79.5 percent year-over-year spike. The Google OS accounted for 75 percent of all shipments during the period, up from 59.1 percent in the first quarter of 2012.

"Samsung was once again the clear leader among all Android smartphone vendors, commanding 41.1 percent market share," IDC said. "Following Samsung was a long list of vendors with single-digit market share, and an even longer list of vendors with market share less than 1 percent. The intra-Android competition has not stifled companies from keeping Android as the cornerstone of their respective smartphone strategies but has upped the ante to innovate proprietary experiences."   

There was good news and bad news for iOS: Apple posted its largest-ever first quarter volume on the strength of its iPhone shipments of 37.4 million, up 6.6 percent from 35.1 million a year ago. But iOS still suffered a year-over-year decline in market share, sliding from 23 percent to 17.3 percent, and experienced lower year-over-year shipment growth than the overall smartphone market.

Linux shipments declined 41.7 percent from 3.6 million in the first three months of 2012 to 1.2 million in the most recent quarter, reaching their lowest levels since the first quarter of 2010. Linux market share fell from 2.4 percent to 2.1 percent. "The lower volumes were not completely unexpected, as most vendors have switched to Android and Samsung, Linux's biggest OEM supporter, readies the debut of its first Tizen-powered smartphones for later this year," IDC said. "This is shaping up to be a pivotal year for the open-source operating system, as multiple platforms, including Mozilla, Sailfish, Tizen and Ubuntu, are expected to introduce or launch their first smartphones in the coming months."

Symbian suffered the steepest year-over-year decline of any smartphone platform, plummeting 88.5 percent as shipments dropped from 10.4 million to 1.2 million. Symbian now makes up just 1.2 percent of worldwide smartphone shipments. "The decline for Symbian-powered smartphones was expected as its primary OEM supporter Nokia has transitioned to Windows Phone, and Japanese vendors have moved to Android," IDC notes, but adds that Symbian shipments could continue into 2014, albeit in dramatically reduced volumes. 

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