BlackBerry, Nokia: Recovering or collapsing? By the numbers

Summary:Nine months on, the two former phone and smartphone behemoths are still holding on to the smartphone cliff, hoping not to fall into the mobile market tar pits. What's changed, and can the two still survive? From what we've seen, only one company can—but not because of the other.

I was optimistic for a time. (Yes, it happens. Rarely.)

As a kid growing up, I used a Nokia, as did practically everyone else. Kids, adults and business folk alike all used a Nokia for some time during the mid-to-late '90s. And then the BlackBerry craze began during the mid-to-late 2000s, and I, like every other teenager, student and Generation Y'er during the latter part of the decade, owned one. 

And then Apple and Google came along and stamped on the market with a range of revolutionary touch-screen phones. Progression is progression, and we can't begrudge the iPhone and Android makers for advancing the stale and stunted state of the mobile market. 

Since then, the two companies have faced almost certain demise, either at one time or another or even multiple times. Three fiscal quarters later since global media 'death watch', deals made between companies, product delays and eventual launches later—little has actually changed on the face of it.

And seemingly arbitrarily, nine months later—or specifically, 276 days—since we last looked at the two companies' numbers in tandem, we thought it might be worth taking another look at the two companies to see if—just if—the two can continue to hold on to the edge of the smartphone cliff for a little while longer.

And it's not all good news, folks. 

Market share

BlackBerry (formerly RIM) held a 6.7 percent sales share for the whole of the first-quarter of 2012, down by 29.7 percent year over year, according to IDC figures. Meanwhile, comScore said BlackBerry had a platform share of 12.3 percent, declining by 3.7 percentage points over a three-month period.

Nokia had an 8.2 percent sales share of the smartphone for the first-quarter of 2012 according to IDC, but this was down by more than 50 percent year over year. That said, the feature phone market was still booming for Nokia, holding a 20.8 percent share in second place behind Samsung, which had 23.5 percent. Nokia's feature phone share was still falling by 23 percent year over year, however.

Nine months later, BlackBerry has been relegated to the "others" section in IDC's latest fourth-quarter of 2012 figures, as was Nokia. Figures weren't broken down but both pegged below the 4.3 percent market share figure, where fifth-place Huawei currently stands.

Both BlackBerry and Nokia's market share have declined—in both smartphone and feature phone categories—despite aggressive pushes to the developing and emerging markets, notably Indonesia for BlackBerry, and  Africa  and  China  for Nokia. 

Nokia retained its second place hold on the feature phone segment, but declined by 23.9 percent year over year, with just 17.9 percent of the market.

Both have lost significant market and platform share, but Nokia is still holding on desperately to its feature phone foot-hold. Yet, this will come back to haunt Nokia as  its smartphone segment remains all but non-existant , and it will  no longer develop cheap-to-build Symbian-based devices . It looks like—at least on the face of it—that Nokia is ramping up its already-slow smartphone effort while ditching its declining yet still lucrative feature phone unit.

BlackBerry, meanwhile, has seen its "best performance" for the first week of sales  but did not share sales figures. Numerous retailers speaking to ZDNet—including U.K. cell network O2 and phone retailer Phones4U—confirmed that their stock had to be replenished, reaffirming BlackBerry chief executive Thorsten Heins' comments that sales are on the whole good.

Sales figures

Nine months on, sales are still not where they should be, at least for two companies clinging on for dear life and trying to revitalize general interest in their products and services.

For BlackBerry, the numbers are quite simple. Quarter on quarter, BlackBerry is shipping fewer devices. In Q4, the company shipped 11.1 million smartphones and lost two executives. In Q1, it shipped 7.8 million smartphones. In Q2, the firm touted 80 million subscribers worldwide , but only shipped 7.4 million smartphones during the quarter. And in Q3, BlackBerry shipped only 6.9 million smartphones .

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The pattern is clear: BlackBerry smartphone shipments are going down significantly quarter-on-quarter.

BlackBerry has cumulatively shipped, in the nearly two years the device has been on sale, around 1.49 million PlayBook tablets. By comparison, even in Apple's worst iPad selling quarter—the third quarter of 2010—the Cupertino, Calif.-based company sold double that with 3.27 million iPads. And that's just in one quarter alone, and the first quarter the iPad was on sale, where nobody knew if they should buy one or not.

Nokia is a tale of two fronts: a smartphone unit—which includes the Windows Phone-powered Lumia range, but is not limited to it—and a feature phone unit, that is slowly being wound down. 

Nokia sold 4.4 million Lumia smartphones during the fourth-quarter of 2012, at the last earnings report . Compare this to previous quarters and Lumia sales figures remain stagnant at best. Nokia sold 4 million Lumia smartphones during the second-quarter of 2012, and a meager 2.9 million Lumia smartphones during the third-quarter

What's likely going to happen is that Lumia and other 'smart device' sales will remain flat or slightly above or below by a few percent quarter-on-quarter, while at the same time feature phones that sit close to smartphone 'status' will continue to dwindle, particularly in emerging markets.

By comparison, according to Strategy Analytics, Samsung sold 55 million smartphones during its third quarter. Apple sold 26.9 million iPhones  during its fourth quarter

Single figures just aren't going to cut it.

Share price

Share price and market caps are not the best indicator of how much a company is 'worth,' per se, but it's nonetheless gives an idea of how investors, shareholders and Wall Street feels about a company's state of affairs.

Nokia ($NOKwent from a pre-global recession share price high of $39.71 in November 2007 to a record low of $1.71 in July 2012, representing a massive 95.6 percent drop in price in just five years. Not only did the global recession kick ten bells out of the Finnish phone maker, it failed to innovate in the then-developing smartphone market.

$NOK. Red line represents nine-month ago mark (Credit: YCharts)

Nokia's market cap has recovered marginally from its record low point in 2012 and gained back mostly what it lost during the last nine months. Nokia is roughly valued at about $15.34 billion based on its current market cap.

Meanwhile, BlackBerry ($RIMMwhich now trades as $BBRY) went from a post-millennium share price high of $144 in June 2008 to a record low of $6.47 in September 2012, representing a 95 percent drop in price. 

$RIMM (now $BBRY) Red line represents nine-month ago mark (Credit: YCharts)

BlackBerry's market cap has recovered the most from its record low price of $11.82 in September 2012 and surpassed the price it dipped to nine months ago to about $16.80—a 42 percent increase in just three fiscal quarters. BlackBerry is roughly valued at about $8.41 billion based on its current market cap. 

Page 2: Profit margins, cash, and concluding thoughts -->

Topics: BlackBerry, Microsoft


Zack Whittaker is a writer-editor for ZDNet, and sister sites CNET and CBS News. He is based in the New York newsroom. His PGP key is: EB6CEEA5.

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