Will Windows Phone overtake the iPhone in Europe in 2014?

Windows Phone sales are skyrocketing in Europe says a recent survey, with more than a 50% lead over the iPhone in Italy, and nearly pulling even in France. If its growth continues, it could overtake the iPhone in Europe by next year. Is that in the cards?

The latest report from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech has plenty of good news for Windows Phone. In Italy Windows PHone has a 16.1% market share to the iPhone's 10.1%. A year ago, Windows Phone was well behind in Italy, with 11.7% market share to the iPhone's 18.5%. Meanwhile in France, Windows Phone is coming close to pulling even, with a 12.5% market share to the iPhone's 15.9% market share. A year ago, Windows Phone was well behind, with a 5.1% market share to the iPhone's 19.5% market share. In Spain, Windows Phone has pulled even with the iPhone. Each has a 4.3% market share.

The news isn't as good in Great Britain and Germay, where the iPhone still dominates Windows Phone. But in both countries, iPhone market share has been dropping, and Windows Phone's market share has been growing. In Germany, the iPhone beats Windows Phone by 13.8% to 6.3%, compared to the iPhone's lead of 15.4% to 2.3% a year ago. In Great Britain, the iPhone beats Windows Phone by 28.7% to 11.9%, compared to 32.7% to 4.6% a year ago.

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Overall, in the five biggest European Union countries, the iPhone beats Windows Phone by 15.8% to 10.2%. That sounds like a solid lead, until you look at the market share of a year ago, when the iPhone had a 20.8% market share to Windows Phone's 4.8% market share. If the same trend continues, in a year Windows Phone will beat the iPhone in those countries, and potentially by a substantial margin.

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The question, of course, is whether the trend will continue. And that will depend, to a great degree, on how well the iPhone 5C sells in Europe, and whether Nokia can continue to produce good low-cost Windows Phones. People tend to be more price-sensitive to phone prices in Europe because cell phone provider subsidies for them tend to be low. Windows Phone has benefited from that. Dominic Sunnebo, strategic insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech notes:

"Momentum for Windows Phone is continuing, although its growth remains reliant on low-end handsets. In Britain, almost three quarters of Nokia Lumia sales in the latest period were low-end devices such as the Lumia 520 and 620 -- a pattern that is similar across other EU markets."

Those low-end Windows Phone devices will have to compete against the iPhone 5C, which Sunnebo says, "appeals to a broader audience than Apple usually attracts."

So will Windows Phone overtake the iPhone in Europe by the end of next year? It may come close, but given the iPhone 5C, I'm not sure Windows Phone will beat the iPhone in market share by that time. But Apple will be fighting in an unaccustomed market market -- bargain hunters -- something it has so far avoided. And it will be battling Nokia, which has long done well with bargain-hunters with its previous phones. So don't be surprised if eventually Windows Phone beats the iPhone in Europe.

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