Windows Phone can finally brag, 'We're number 3!'

It might not seem like a victory to many people, but Windows Phone has finally climbed to number 3 on the smartphone popularity list, edging past BlackBerry. Even better news for Microsoft: Windows Phone shipments more than doubled in the past year.

So says the latest figures from IDC. IDC reports that Windows Phone had 3.2 percent market share in the first quarter of 2013, compared to to 2.9 percent for BlackBerry. A year ago BlackBerry had a 6.4 percent market share, and Windows Phone a 2 percent market share. Some 7 million Windows Phone devices shipped in the first quarter of this years, compared to 3 million a year previously.

Android once again was the bully boy of the market, with a 75 percent market share, followed by iOS with 17.3 percent. In the quarter, 162.1 million Android phones shipped, and 37.4 million iPhones shipped.

Microsoft had the largest percentage gain of any smartphone OS. Its growth has been driven largely by Nokia, IDC says. The report concludes:

Nokia was largely responsible for driving these volumes higher, accounting for 79.0% of all Windows Phone shipments during the quarter. Since Nokia began shipping Windows Phone devices, the company has shipped a total of 20.3 million units and grown the footprint worldwide to include address multiple market segments. Meanwhile, other vendors continue to offer Windows Phone devices, but mainly as an alternative to their signature Android devices. Still, the gains made by Windows Phone demonstrate both end-user demand and OEM support.

The IDC numbers are no fluke. Kantar Worldpanel ComTech's latest report on smartphone sales shows Windows Phone with a 3.7% market share in the U.S. in the first quarter.

I expect Windows Phone market share to gain even more ground in the next year. So far, Windows Phone devices have been largely limited to flagship phones, high-end phones with plenty of features and prices to match. But Microsoft has begun an effort with T-Mobile to launch budget phones, lower-cost phones that don't cost more than $100 to $150 without requiring a contract.

Those lower-cost phones are targeted at least in part at people who own feature phones and are upgrading to smartphones. Kantar Worldpanel ComTech's latest report found that demographic to be Windows Phone's sweet spot. Kantar Worldpanel ComTech analyst Mary-Ann Parlato noted:

"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 upshot? Expect Windows Phone to grow even more from here. It will certainly solidify its number three spot, and make shapr  gains beyond it.

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