Windows Phone racks up big worldwide growth numbers -- it's now for real

Windows Phone's growth surged 77% in the last year, the biggest year-over-year percentage growth of any smartphone OS. So says the newest IDC report, and it's backed up by other numbers. It's now clear that Windows Phone is here to stay.

The IDC report says that Windows Phone shipments surged to 8.7 million in the second quarter, up from 4.9 million a year previous, for a growth rate of 77.6%. That gives Windows Phone a worldwide market share of 3.7%, compared to 3.1% a year previous.

Android was the big winner, with 187.4 million shipments in the quarter, up from 108 million a year previous, for year-over-year growth of 73.5%. It has a whopping 79.3% market share. iOS, meanwhile, had 31.2 million shipments in the quarter, up from 26 million a year previous, growing 20% year over year. It has a 13.2% market share.

Microsoft is now solidly the number three smartphone OS worldwide. BlackBerry has 2.9% market share. Its shipments dropped 11.7% compared to a year ago.

What's driving Windows Phone growth? In a word, Nokia. IDC says that 81.6% of all Windows Phone sales during the quarter were for Nokia phones.

Having Windows Phone's future so tied to a single vendor is problematic, because if Nokia stumbles, so will Windows Phone. But I expect other vendors to begin pushing Windows Phone as well. Its growth shows that it's in the market for the long haul. And cell service providers want an alternative to iPhone and Android as a way to drive down the high subsidies they're often forced to pay.

The IDC report echoes other recent findings. Windows Phone is closing in on 10% market share in some key European markets, including France and the U.K. according to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. The report concluded "Windows Phone continues to consolidate its position as the third OS globally."

Kantar Worldpanel ComTech has also found that Windows Phone's strength is in attracting budget-conscious first-time smartphone buyers. With the high-end smartphone market likely to show slower growth, downmarket is where the growth will be. And that's Windows Phone's sweet spot.

So while it may be true that 3.7% is nothing to crow about, Windows Phone's momentum and its primary demographic show there are likely even better days to come for it.

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