New report calls Windows Phone 'top performer' and 'fastest growing OS in the world'

It may seem that there's only bad news for Windows Phone these days, but a new report from a respected research firm says that Windows is the "fastest growing OS in the world," and sees good times ahead for it. Is this just hype, or is there some truth behind it?

Kantar Worldpanel ComTech just published a report titled "Mobile Trands that Matter Tomorrow." (Here's the summary; if you want the full report, click here.) The reports summarizes the most important trends of 2013, and looks forward to those it expects to take root in 2014. It looks at trends such as brand loyalty, OS loyalty, screen size, and more. It also examines how each of the major mobile OSes fared in 2013, and how they might fare in 2014. Here's what it concludes about Windows Phone:

"If Android and Apple can claim to be the big players of 2013, Windows Phone wins the title of top-performer."

Why top performer? It claims:

"Windows [Phone] is the fastest growing OS in the world. It has overtaken Apple in Italy, is a close second in Germany and has snatched back third place in Britain."

The report says that Windows Phone has managed to do that by Nokia focusing on the low end rather than the high end of the smartphone market:

"The turning point for Windows Phone was 2013’s launch of the Nokia Lumia 620 and 520. Changing tactic and re-focusing on the low to middle-end of the market appealed to a large number of the remaining first-time smartphone buyers, many of whom still own Nokia featurephones. It has sucked up the remaining customers from Symbian and BlackBerry and is now eating into the low-end Android market."

And it projects potentially good times ahead for Windows Phone, if Nokia can convert budget-minded first-time Windows Phone buyers to buying higher-priced phones:

"The good news for Nokia and Microsoft is that once consumers buy their first smartphone and become more engaged in the market, they are willing to spend significantly more on their upgrade. Nokia may be skewed to the low end now, but if it can keep its increasing base of customers loyal the high-end should follow soon after."

Is there truth in that conclusion, or is it painting too rosy a picture? It seems to me that it's skewed too far to the bright side, especially considering that Kantar Worldpanel ComTech just released a report showing that Windows Phone's growth has stalled in Europe, fallen behind in China, and not making a great deal of headway in the U.S.

In Europe, Windows Phone growth has stagnated at around 10%, where it's been for months. In China, staganation would have been a good thing, because Windows Phone now has 0.7% of the Chinese smartphone market, compared to 1.4% a year ago. In the U.S., it first appears that there's good news for Windows Phone, which the firm found had a market share of 5.1% in the most recent quarter, up from 3.4% a year ago. But in both March and April, 2013, Windows Phone sales were 5.6% of the U.S. market. So Windows Phone has lost ground since then.

All that certainly doesn't add up to Windows Phone being the "top performer" among smartphone operating systems. And neither does Nokia's announcement at the Mobile World Congress 2014 that it will be selling three low-end Android phones into markets in the developing world. If Windows Phone was indeed a top performer, there would be no need for Nokia to resort to that.

As for Windows Phone being the "fastest growing OS in the world," that's possible, but only because it started at such a low point. There's no glory in going from nowhere to a far-behind third-place also-ran, which Windows Phone is right now.

So while it's true that Windows Phone did grow a great deal in the past year, most of that growth came in the early part of the year, and has since stagnated. Microsoft and Nokia clearly need new tactics. Launching Android phones which are really Windroid phones because they're a mashup of Android and Windows Phone, is a good first move. But they'll have to come up with plenty more if Windows Phone is to become a true "top performer."

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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