Smartphones: Symbian sinks under 50% share, Apple races past Windows Mobile


Smartphonesales3q2008A few months back, we looked at the worldwide smartphone market numbers and watched RIM jump past Windows Mobile. Mac OS X handset sales, i.e.: the iPhone, more than doubled year-over-year and perennial market leader Symbian was in danger of dipping below the 50% line. Fast forward to today thanks to Gartner’s 3rd quarter numbers and you can see that the trends are continuing. For some that’s good, while others were already declining in market share and they keep sinking. Note: while other similar research came to light this week, I’m focusing on Gartner’s numbers simply for consistency because I used them a quarter ago.

Bear in mind that these figures represent a snapshot in time. They represent the smartphone market sales for the third quarter of this year, not the overall smartphone OS market share. Still, they paint a dreary picture for some because the numbers are a good indicator of how the trends continue, barring some profound new product announcements. Even then, announcements don’t often help market share gains when there’s no product availability. As a result, the introduction of Nokia’s N97 earlier this week won’t help Symbian for two quarters since that’s when the phone will become available for sale. In fact, one could argue that the product announcement could further hurt Symbian’s market share over the next six months: folks could hold off on buying currently available Nokia smartphones in anticipation of purchasing an N97 in the second half of 2009.

2q08smartphonemarketshare_2Just to recap from the prior quarter, Symbian had captured 57.1% of smartphone sales and didn’t have much new to offer in terms of products. There were a few new Windows Mobile handsets, but most were re-hashes or carrier ports of existing devices. Nothing new from Palm aside from the Treo Pro, which isn’t carrier subsidized and would actually help the Windows Mobile numbers. Apple introduced the iPhone 3G with new carrier subsidization plans and clearly that made a huge difference for the quarter. How much? Let’s look at the numbers.

3q08smartphonemarketshareIn the second quarter of 2008, Apple iPhone sales were 2.8% of the market. One the faster 3G device hit the market at $199 and $299 out of the consumer’s pocket, Apple took 12.9% of all smartphone sales for the quarter. Support for Microsoft Exchange in the enterprise likely didn’t hurt either. That’s staggering growth and it came at the expense  of every other big player: RIM, Windows Mobile, Palm and Symbian were all down. In fact, this is the first time I can ever remember Symbian under 50% market share in any given quarter.

Three months ago, I took a guess at what these numbers would look like in the future. I nailed the Symbian share, but I clearly underestimated the impact of adding 3G to a lower-priced iPhone when I said this:

"Symbian stays in the number one spot, but their share dips dangerously close to or just under the 50% mark. Apple continues to be the big gainer and grabs 8% thanks to the 3G iPhone and Exchange Support with corporate adoption here and there. Palm’s low price strategy continues to work with the Centro, and while it wont have the impact it had in 2008, Palm should still grow to near 3.5% Linux devices stay status quo around 7%, which leaves 31.5% left for RIM and Windows Mobile. My gut says that RIM continues the upward trend faster than Windows Mobile. A new version of Windows Mobile should be out by this time next year, but it will take time to appear in a vast number of handsets. Well, if the 6.1 upgrade is any indication anyway. RIM will take 19% to 20% market share, leaving Windows Mobile flat in terms of market share."

I mistakenly thought that Palm’s low-priced Centro would help more than it has. Perhaps a cheap smartphone with an old operating system is… getting old? T-Mobile didn’t offer their Android-based G1 handset until after the quarter, which is why I believe that the Linux number didn’t change. It will for the next quarter… my guess would be a jump from around 7% to 12% of the market, but further growth will depend on how many third-party developers show up for Android. RIM might gain back some losses thanks to new handsets like the Bold and Storm, although they need to address some software issues to gain serious market share. Some think it’s the best BlackBerry to date, while others think it’s a dud so far. Windows Mobile won’t move much until the next version of the OS and with no Nokia N97 for nearly six months, Apple will likely be on par with RIM.




Kevin, your right, having many hardware devices to run on doesn’t guarantee marketshare, I just have a gut feeling and seem to see a trend toward Gooogle’s web-centric approach to smartphone compared to MS pocket “office” phones.

Jonathan Balkind

Not only am I astounded by Apple’s increase over this period, I’m also astounded by your fantastic predictions Kevin. While you might’ve been wrong for a few, you got it right on the head for Symbian, your guess on Linux was good too, and I really don’t think anyone saw that huge increase for Apple.

Nice predicting skills, I hope to see Linux further up in share by next quarter but it may take longer for the other carriers to announce and release their Android phones.

Kevin C. Tofel

“I wouldn’t call a 2% lead “racing past” Windows Mobile”.

Completely understand your perspective. Here’s mine: in one quarter, the iPhone went from 2.8% to 12.9% of the market. I see that kind of growth rate as racing past.

AndyT., you raise a good point, but let me play devil’s advocate using your logic. Windows Mobile has so many different smartphones out there to compete against Apple’s single phone as well. More handsets doesn’t justify market leadership. ;)


I think Unix/Linux OS based smart phones will own this space very rapidly. iPhone’s Unix is the best at this time but I would put my money on the Linux+Java Android phone(S) leading the pack eventually because they will have so many different “smart” phones out there to compete against Apple’s single phone.


I know, I know, I’m splitting hairs but I wouldn’t call a 2% lead “racing past” Windows Mobile. HOWEVER, given the fact that Windows Mobile numbers are down, I do believe that Microsoft needs to get off its corporate butt and get in gear to get some finger-friendly updates out the door.

Comments are closed.