Will Android's slowing growth be an opening for Windows Phone?

Android remains king of the smartphones, but its growth in 2013 was the slowest at any time in its history. Can Windows Phone make inroads as Android potentially swoons?

The latest market figures from Strategy Analytics have both good news and bad news for Android. First the good news: In 2013 Android widened its lead over the iPhone, Windows Phone, and other smartphones, with a remarkable 78.9% of all smartphones shipped in the world. That adds up to 781.2 million units, well ahead of 153.4 million for the iPhone, and 35.7 million for Windows Phones.

If you're looking at market share figures, that's 78.9% for Android, 15.5% for the iPhone, and 3.6% for Windows Phone in 2013. In the fourth quarter alone, though, Android didn't do quite so well, with a 78.4% market share, the iPhone with a 17.6% market share, and Windows Phone with a 3.2% market share. That means that the iPhone took market share away from Android as well as Windows Phone. You can see all the figures, below.

strategy_analytics_2013.jpg

The bad news, according to Strategy Analytics, is that Android's growth rate was 62% for 2013, which at first sounds solid. But Strategy Analytics says that was the lowest growth rate in the operating system's history. The report warned:

We expect Android's growth to slow further in 2014 due to market saturation, and rivals like Microsoft or Firefox will be ready to pounce on any signs of a major slowdown for Android this year.

Of course, the company warns that all is not well with Windows Phone, either, saying:

The Windows Phone platform is still struggling to gain traction in the low-tier and premium-tier smartphone categories and they remain serious weaknesses that Microsoft will need to address in 2014.

The only way Microsoft can make any headway if Android loses steam is in the low-tier category. Surprisingly, after some initial success there, Windows Phone sales stalled. Nokia's most recent earning report noted that sales of Lumia Windows Phone devices dropped to 8.2 million devices from 8.8 million devices in the previous quarter.

Nokia traditionally has done well selling reasonably priced phones in emerging markets. If it can do that for Windows Phones, Microsoft may well make headway if Android stumbles. But if not, Windows Phone won't make up much ground, if any.

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