That's amore: What's behind Italy's love affair with Windows Phone – and can it last?

That's amore: What's behind Italy's love affair with Windows Phone – and can it last?

Summary: Italy has become one of the first major markets where Windows Phone is outselling iOS. Can the love affair last?

The Lumia 521, one of the lower-end handsets helping Nokia's sales. Image: CNET

Old passions never die. If you want proof, look at Italy, which has just become the first big European market where Windows Phone has overtaken iOS in terms of smartphones sales. The shift happened, according to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, in the three months ending 30 September with the ancient passion between Italians and Nokia possibly having a role in it.

During that time, the Microsoft OS accounted for 13.7 percent of sales in Italy, a solid second position behind the all-conquering Android (71.6 percent) and ahead of iOS which slipped to third with 10.2 percent. That’s an event Steve Ballmer — who visited Italy a few days ago — might want to remember as a prima volta.

"This is the first time in the EU5 that Windows held a larger share than iOS," Dominic Sunnebo, global consumer insight director of Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, told ZDNet.

The old love affair between Italians and the Nordic brand might well being play a part in the rise of Windows Phone here. "Italy has traditionally been a very strong market for Nokia and there are still many Italians with Nokia devices —sentiment for the brand remains high," Sunnebo said.

If money cannot buy love, sometimes it can help re-awaken it. Nokia's more aggressive strategy in the country might have indeed revived the passion, with mid-tier devices coming out of Finland seducing the recession-ridden Mediterranean peninsula again.

"Now that Nokia is offering the Lumia 520 and 620 at competitive prices, sales are picking up. 28 percent of Italians still own a Nokia phone (feature or smart), which provides an excellent base targeting their Lumia range."

According to Sunnebo, in the third quarter of 2013 the average price paid for an iOS handset (including carrier subsidies) in Italy was €432, compared to €249 for Android and €209 for Windows Phone.

That money and tradition are the main suspects for the Windows Phone exploit is confirmed by other observers who describe Italian consumers as increasingly careful when deciding whether to buy smartphones.

"Lumia devices are a good fit for markets where users look for bargains. Particularly, as the case in Italy, when the trend-setters and the wealthy already own their top-of-the-range smartphones," Cristoforo Morandini, director of consultancy Between, told ZDNet.

"The Italian smartphone market is almost saturated, with all those who wanted a full-fledged device having already gotten it," Daniela Rao, telecommunications research director at IDC Italia, confirmed.

This means the sales focus for manufacturers has moved to lower segments of users with mobile carriers increasingly playing a role. "The distribution carried out by operators has a huge impact. And right now carriers are trying to lure customers, particularly youngsters, into data plans heavily subsidising mid and low-end devices," she said.

This scenario seems to benefit Android, which according to Kantar, gained 10.4 percent year on year in the third quarter, and Windows Phone (up 2.9 percent). Apple, meanwhile, declined by four percent.

A sustainable trend?

So no doubt former Nokia CEO and now Microsoft heir apparent Stephen Elop and Steve Ballmer have a reason to hold Italy dear, but will Windows Phone relative success in 'the Boot' prove to be long-lasting? That's hard to tell.

Some contingent factors might have contributed to the overtaking of iOS that won’t be here next quarter: "It's maybe a fact less relevant than others but the period of the year in which the data were collected had an impact: Q3 has its own trends, Q4 has others which might be more favorable to iOS," Morandini said, referring to the Christmas shopping season which could boost sales of Cupertino's high-end devices.

The view is shared by Sunnebo who sees Apple reclaiming the second spot back some time soon despite Nokia and Windows Phone keeping the momentum.

"Italy has been a strong performer for Nokia for some time (since the start of 2013), however this changeover in ranking is more as a result of iOS is losing share than Windows gaining share. With full 5s and 5c sales, I would expect this trend to reverse in Q413."

When it comes to smartphone OSes, finding out whether true love lasts is just a matter of one more quarter.

Further reading

Topics: Mobility, Mobile OS, Smartphones, Windows Phone

Raffaele Mastrolonardo

About Raffaele Mastrolonardo

Raffaele Mastrolonardo is a journalist and co-founder of effecinque news agency. He has been writing about technology for the past 11 years or so for some of the most important Italian news media.

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  • Some different market perspective

    Let's take two of the "facts" in this article:

    "During that time, the Microsoft OS accounted for 13.7 percent of sales in Italy, a solid second position behind the all-conquering Android (71.6 percent) and ahead of iOS which slipped to third with 10.2 percent."


    "According to Sunnebo, in the third quarter of 2013 the average price paid for an iOS handset (including carrier subsidies) in Italy was €432, compared to €249 for Android and €209 for Windows Phone."

    Now, let's do some basic math (pretending, total of 10 million smartphones sold in Italy during that period):

    Number of devices:
    Android: 7,16 million
    Windows Phone: 1,37 million
    iPhone: 1,02 million

    Consumer money spent:
    Android: 1.78 billion
    Windows Phone: 286 million
    iPhone: 440 million

    A very different percentage.

    Now, if we apply the profit margin, things get even more different.

    In any case, Nokia will no longer sell these devices. They will not even bear the Nokia logo anymore and... are not likely to sell much.
    • Reading all your posts, danbi

      I'd love to meet you in person. I'm sure it would make for a great viral video- "Man pops blood vessels raging so hard against Microsoft". Find a nice Apple/Android fan and find something else to do (in person) other than boost comment numbers on Microsoft...and even raging against Microsoft on non-Microsoft articles!
      • Re: I'd love to meet you in person.

        Watch what you ask for, as you may get it. And then some.

        By the way, you bark at the wrong tree.
        • Look out, its an internet tough guy.

          So tough.
        • Wow. Your the one barking man.

          You are popping a blood vessel. The hate around here is so thick you could cut it with a knife some days.

      • @ ikissfutbol

        I would speculate that there are two probable reasons for danbi's recent frequent rant-like contributions to this site:

        #1 Microsoft turned down some or all of his requests for his newly bought Surface. He takes his anger to zdnet board.
        #2 danbi changed his job from being an unpaid Apple shill to being a paid Apple shill. Writing anti-Microsoft comments boosts his pro-Apple ranking. So he turns his inner energies into writing frequent 5-hour energy boosted comments on zdnet against Microsoft.

        Either way, zdnet is the winner with increase in traffic from his home or office in UK. While we Americans are left watching this gigantic expose of an anger from far.
    • appreciate you pointing out how Apple is rippmg off the consumer

      Good work!
    • In other words

      It is a case of a people in a country hard hit by recession making the most of their resources by seeking the best value device they can reasonably afford.
    • Danbi post....

      Apple good, MS bad! That is all.
      • Re: Apple good, MS bad! That is all.

        Is it?

        By the way, I still feel nostalgic about the pre-Elop Nokia. It is amazing what greed can do to people.
        • News flash!!

          All corporations are greedy... all shareholders are greedy... no one gives a crap about anything other than money. No company is any better than the other.
          • Re: No company is any better than the other.

            Companies are run by people.

            Some want to get rich fast, some don't. Some are not even greedy.

            Can you imagine?
          • Right.... No one at Apple is greedy.

            That's why they don't use almost slave labor in chin..... Oh wait they do. They really are all greedy.
          • Nonsense.

            Show me a company that isn't greedy and I'll show you a non-profit.

            They're in the business of making money. Their boards, shareholders, etc, all want them to make money. Some are greedier than others, sure. Apple is probably the most abusive in that regard of all the tech companies, but they're all after profit. That's not a bad thing in itself, so don't pretend like companies don't all want money.
            Phillip Baggett
        • "It is amazing what greed can do to people"

          I think that same thought everytime I read one of your posts, danbi...
      • LOL!

    • Revenue is short lived

      Apple may be bringing in more revenue from Italy than Nokia but that's only based on current numbers. What's more important is the trend in sales. If Apple continues to fall out of favour, for whatever reason, their revenue will continue to decrease. So current sales percentages may not tell the revenue/profit story of the day, but they could be an important indicator of what's to come.
    • The fear is strong in you, danbi.

      Not sure what it is - did Ballmer eat your twinkie as a kid? Or is it what you're paid to do?

      You attempt to spin everything Microsoft related into so kind of huge loss, even though they post good numbers every quarter, grow billion dollar businesses, and continue to slowingly grow their marketshare in other areas.

      Your fear doesn't make sense - why would someone need to take something so personally as to lie as you do about a company that doesn't intersect our lives in any critical way?

      Which is why I'm really suspicous about your motives - if you're not spinningthings for a personal reason, then more likely it's for the cash you're getting to do so, as i can't see how what you do could be considered "fun".
    • Bad maths

      What about the cut of money MS is getting from Android manufacturers? ;) lol
    • Nokia Logo

      Actually, Microsoft has licensed the right to keep using the Nokia logo and brand on the devices despite the purchase. So they can continue.

      To your first point, Microsoft isn't concerned about the profit from the phones themselves. Getting people into the ecosystem is what they want so they can generate income from them directly and long-term.
      Phillip Baggett