Who's the biggest gainer in U.S. smartphone market share? Wrong! It's Windows Phone.

Windows Phone is all but dead and buried, right? Wrong. A new study shows it's got plenty of life -- in fact, it gained more market share in the past year in the U.S. than Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry. And even better times might be ahead.

That information comes from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech's latest report on smartphone sales. It shows Windows Phone increasing its U.S. market share from 3.7% in the first quarter of 2012 to 5.6% in the first quarter of 2013, for an increase of 1.9%. iOS shrank from 44.6% to 43.7% for a decrease of 0.9%, Android grew from 47.9% to 49.3%, for an increase of 1.4%, and BlackBerry shrank from 1.7% to 0.9% for a decrease of .08%.

Kantar Worldpanel ComTech analyst Mary-Ann Parlato said of the figures:

"As iOS and Android continue to battle it out for top selling smartphone OS, we have seen Windows steadily grow over the past year and is now at its highest sales share figure so far."

The report says that's no fluke, and that Windows Phone likely has even better times ahead. That's because Windows Phone does particularly well with new smartphone users, and the U.S. market has plenty of people who don't yet have smartphones. Parlato explains:

"Windows strength appears to be the ability to attract first time smartphone buyers, upgrading from a featurephone. Of those who changed their phone over the last year to a Windows smartphone, 52% had previously owned a featurephone...with over half of the US market still owning a featurephone, it's likely that many will upgrade over the coming year, which will ultimately contribute to more growth for the Windows brand."

The report shows that Nokia's bet on Windows Phone may finally be starting to pay off. It found that:

Nokia, has seen the greatest benefit from the OS’ growth. Although, still only 4% of smartphones sold in Q1 2013, Nokia has seen its share rise from just 1% in the same period a year ago.

It's not just the U.S. where Windows Phone is seeing growth. It's picking up overseas as well, with a 4.1% market share. It has been doing particularly well in Europe. In the five countries covered in the report, Windows Phone had 6.5% of sales, up 2.5% from a year ago.

All this is the second piece of recent good news in mobile for Microsoft. Several days ago, a Strategy Analytics report found that Windows tablets had 7.5% of the market in the first quarter of 2013, with 3 million shipped. So Microsoft seems to be finally gaining some traction in mobile. People seem not to be locked into old habits, and appear to be willing to try something new. And that may be the best news of all for Microsoft's mobile strategy.

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