Why is Windows Phone outselling the iPhone in Poland? (Hint: it's the economics, stupid)

Why is Windows Phone outselling the iPhone in Poland? (Hint: it's the economics, stupid)

Summary: Poland was one of seven countries Microsoft named where Windows Phone is more popular than Apple's iPhone. Why? A mixture of brand perception, operator support and good, old-fashioned pricing.

The Nokia 610 is helping drive Windows Phone sales in Poland. Image: Nokia

Late last month, Microsoft trumpeted that its Windows Phone platform had outsold the iPhone in seven markets in the last quarter of last year, including Poland.  What Microsoft didn't say, however, is that Poland is the biggest Windows Phone market anywhere in the world – consumers and developers alike can't get enough of the Microsoft platform, which is second only to the Android juggernaut in smartphone market share.

The success of Windows Phone has also had side effects on the Polish development scene, Microsoft claims. Windows Phone sales have spurred the Polish app development industry to focus on the Microsoft platform, a Polish spokesman of the Redmond giant told daily Gazeta Wyborcza in February. Of the approximately 130,000 apps in the Microsoft store, 6,000 are built by Polish developers, Microsoft says. That makes Poland the third placed country for Windows Phone development, behind the USA and India.

So what makes Poland so different to so many of the world's other mobile markets, where Windows Phone's share of the smartphone market is one-tenth that of iOS'?

First, a bit of perspective: the largest smartphone OS in Poland, as in most mature markets, is still Android. Overall, it accounted for 72 percent of smartphones sold in Poland last year, according to figures from analyst firm IDC.

However, Windows Phone has been making huge strides in the country: IDC reckons in 2012, it took 12 percent of the smartphone market, while Microsoft estimates it took 16.3 percent, compared to eight percent in the whole central and eastern European region and three percent worldwide.

The iPhone, a very strong second place in the smartphone market in most other parts of the globe, is struggling in Poland: iOS' share of the smartphone market in the country is around four percent, according to IDC's numbers, compared to 19 percent worldwide. (Although it's worth noting that iPhone is more popular in the informal market, such as auction websites, because of the lower prices that can be found there.) However, in terms of new sales, Poland is one of the few countries where Windows Phone devices outsell iPhones by a significant margin.

Mobile operators' support

According to analyst Marek Kujda of IDC, mobile operators have been pushing mobile contracts with Windows Phones partly out of fear of Samsung coming to dominate the market. "They don’t want to be too dependent on one supplier," he says. "That supplier would otherwise have the edge in future sales contract negotiations."

While Kudja believes Samsung is continuing to extend its lead, others believe the operators' balancing act is paying off for Nokia. In Poland, the smartphone battle is a now two-horse race: in 2012, 32 percent of smartphones sold were Samsungs, while 29 percent were Nokias, says broadsheet Rzeczpospolita citing data from MEC Analytics and Insight. Worldwide, Nokia has just five percent of the smartphone market to Samsung's 30 percent, by IDC's numbers.

Nokia doesn't seemed to have suffered the same wobbles in Poland as it has in other markets. In 2011, Nokia sold more smartphones (admittedly which were mostly Symbian-based) than Samsung, IDC found last year. Worldwide, it shipped 18 percent fewer smartphones than its rival.

So why is Nokia holding up better in Poland than elsewhere?

According to one Polish technology industry watcher, Przemyslaw Pajak, Nokia and Samsung both spend around the same amounts on marketing in the country. However, Nokia holds the edge when it comes to reputation: "Polish consumers consider Nokia to be a trustworthy brand, which produces resilient phones," Pajak says. "Samsung still has a reputation of lesser quality. Apple is perceived as a high-end luxury."

A question of images

So why is Nokia holding up better in Poland than elsewhere? According to Pajak, while Samsung has been active on the Polish market far longer than Nokia, that history may be in a sense a handicap for the company: Poles were introduced to Samsung during the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, an era when product quality in Poland wasn't seen as especially good. When Poland opened up economically, Samsung was one of the companies whose consumer products came onto the market. Consumers still seem to remember those times, when Samsung was one of the budget choices they had, Pajak explains.

In the meantime, Nokia managed to create an image of Nordic durability and that image has stuck, Pajak adds. The choice for Windows Phone as the operating system for the Lumia line of smartphones has not tarnished that image at all.

And, while Apple may have been able to lay the groundwork for the iPhone through a halo effect from its Mac desktop line, Poland has remained resistant to the company's charm there too. "Compared to Western Europe, Microsoft has an even stronger position here in the PC market," Pajak says. "I think 98 percent of PC sales are Windows. Mac and Linux have not been able to establish themselves yet." Worldwide, Apple's share of the desktop market is thought to be five times that.

And iPhone's lack of Polish success? IDC's Kujda believes the reason the OS is not doing well in Poland and other poorer countries is simple economics. "The average salary in Poland is about €800 before taxes. The median salary is even lower," he says. In order to buy an iPhone, the average Pole would have to fork out an entire month's wages.

"Windows Phone sales have not been driven by the most expensive models, but by the cheaper Lumia 610, which costs about €150 without a contract," Kujda notes. The average monthly mobile tariff in Poland is about 60 to 70 zlotys  (€15 to €18) per month. "You cannot offer an iPhone for one zloty with those bundles," Kujda says.

Topics: Windows Phone, Android, Apple, Mobile OS, Nokia, Smartphones

Michiel van Blommestein

About Michiel van Blommestein

Michiel van Blommestein is a Dutch journalist who has been living in Poland since 2010. He worked as a technology journalist in the Netherlands before moving to Poland to work as a regular correspondent for various news outlets. He still loves the bits and bytes though.

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  • Why do

    you dislike Windows Phone and praise the iPhone so much?
    Also note that Mac's market share has almost been passed by Windows 8 now.
    Just trying to add a little balance to this 'article'.
  • So why is Nokia holding up better in Poland than elsewhere?

    """" In order to buy an iPhone, the average Pole would have to fork out an entire month's wages... "Windows Phone sales have not been driven by the most expensive models, but by the cheaper Lumia 610, which costs about €150 without a contract"""

    Agree, cheap Nokia models sell out here (in Poland) very well. However, the flagship models also doing well.

    It should also be noted that the older iPhone models are also on offer, you can get 4S for 1PLN (zloty).

    This report is a mixed bag, in one hand Kujda speaks about cheap Lumia models and iPhone in the context of buying one, and in other hand he speaks about contract and give as this statement:
    """"The average monthly mobile tariff in Poland is about 60 to 70 zlotys (€15 to €18) per month. "You cannot offer an iPhone for one zloty with those bundles," Kujda says.""""

    Untrue. Play and T-Mobile offer iPhone 4S for one zloty in 69 zloty tariff. T-Mobile are going further offering iPhone 5 for 199PLN (zloty) in 139 PLN tarrif.

    Where is a problem you ask? Its simple, when someone offer me Lumia 820 for one zloty in 69 tarrif considering all advantage over iPhone that gives me a Lumia, a choose Lumia. And this how we, average Pole make a choose.
    • More-less and not all

      No one has also mentioned one additional thing - it's not only that the price of iPhone is quite high as for average salary in Poland. iPhone in Poland is even more expensive than iPhone in Germany or UK. This is one of the reasons why so many people are sending iPhones to Poland from US, it's simply cheaper (although more risky). This is, on the other hand, a rule that is claimed to all wares perceived as "luxury" - they are all more expensive in Poland than in the Western Europe (not only relatively to salaries, also absolutely).

      The theory about better perception of Nokia brand than Samsung is possibly true, but it's rather the fact of coming the "Western" trends to Poland with a delay. In Poland people are not yet conscious that Nokia has practically become a Microsoft subsidiary selling Chinese hardware with Microsoft's system.
  • Predictable

    I've been predicting this for a while. The iPhone is a really nice, top quality phone but you pay for that niceness and quality. I believe this is why Android trampled iPhone and why Nokia will trample iPhone as well. Windows Phone has a whole lot to offer. It gives you the stability, and reliability of the iPhone as the cost of an Android while at the same time, offers a unique, sharp, snappy look of the Windows phone OS.
    • top quality??

      you look at an iphone wrong and the screen shatters, meanwhile you can hit a nokia with a baseball bat and not a scratch.
  • Not correct

    I think because in markets like Poland, people are still not affected by the Apple arrogance virus. when they buy their electronics, like smart people, they consider utility and value. not brand and social image.

    they are doing the right thing, Windows phone software makes iOS look like a dinosaur.
  • I Say

    Windows Phone FTW!
  • So simple

    Windows Phone is more popular in Poland, fact. Why? Every phone provider gives you WP phone for $1 and iPhone 5 for about $599 in comparison for the same 2-year contract. Most of the people (in general) don't care about smartphone features. Phone should be able to send/receive Messages and to make calls, they think so. Money is the case. Guy who wants smartphone choses between iP5, high-end HTC or even plastic Samsung. The last one company has the best PR in our country so in underground or tram you can see 3 guys with WP (they are cheap, phones ofc), 2 with Note II/Galaxy S3 and finally one tapping on the screen of his new iPhone.
    • @matterfixed

      If they just want the basic functionalities then they definitely skip smart phones.

      Nokia is seen as quality. That's the reason it can compete with cheap Android phones there.
      • Not exactly.

        People need basic functionality + web browser. MAYBE sometimes some automation, connection with well known services (email, facebook), maybe sometimes additionally a music box. This is how it looks from my perspective. No sane man expects miracles from a smartphone simply because it has a small screen and comparison with watching the same on a computer with big monitor and writing with normal keyboard (as I'm doing now) is completely ridiculous.

        The only significant difference between WP and iPhone (and all others) is how good they are at doing all these basic tasks, and, well, how expensive they are. When there's no so many differences and there's a HOOJ difference in price, who's the winner?
  • The future is bright

    If Nokia can do well in Poland with a WP7 handset (Lumia pictured), think what it will achieve once the numbers for WP8 handsets like 620 start to show? Smart folk the Poles, they know a bargain when they see one. Kudos.
  • The above article was written with an angry undertone by the author,

    who apparently doesn't like WP8, or anything to do with the Windows name on it, but, had to reluctantly report on the facts that, WP8 is selling well and overtook iPhone in some countries.

    Example of the anti-WP8 bias in the article: "The choice for Windows Phone as the operating system for the Lumia line of smartphones has not tarnished that image at all."

    Reading into that, the author is unhappy that the Nokia smartphones are selling well, despite the "awfulness" of the WP8 OS. That is his view, and one that more closely mirrors the fanboism that one can find in the tech blogs where everyone's favorite device or OS is the best, and the others are dismissed as awful or junk or unworthy.

    When reporting "facts", a writer's personal views and feelings and preferences, should not be part of the story, but the article above demonstrates the author's personal grief that WP8 is outselling the iPhone. It was not enough to report the fact that WP8/Nokia was selling better than the iPhone in some markets. Then, the author took it a step further by bringing up the "excuse" for why he thinks it is that the WP8 is selling better, the excuse being that, people in Poland don't make enough to afford an iPhone and that the WP8 being sold is the cheaper low-end. But, that excuse about the economic factor being the driving force for why people are preferring WP8 over iPhones, is never used when bloggers mention that, PC sales are awful. Why not be consistent when reporting that, economic conditions affect all types of sales? If economic conditions in some areas of the world, or the whole world, are bad, then it's going to affect how what purchases people make, and the brands they purchase, and how much of anything they make. If the excuse is that, WP8 sells better in bad economic situations, why not use the same excuse to say that, people won't be purchasing PCs under the same bad economic conditions?

    Some people should not be writing reports when people expect to be reading the facts, and not about their personal gripes or grief.
    • Agreed

      Some authors seem to be on their hobby horse. Their objectivity left the building a long time ago.
    • B

      And who likes Windows Phone? It lacks features, lacks apps and is the worst mobile operating system choice you can make....
  • great article

    One doubt though :-)

    If price is the reason for WP to outsell iPhone, it implies at&t is the reason iPhone is selling well in US. Which implies that iPhone cannot sell itself. Or are you implying that Americans are stupid enough to spend a lot at places they need not spend?

    Overall, the article is a waste of my time.
    • Well duh!!

      It doesn't imply it, it shouts it from the rooftops. The US system of being tied to carriers is the opposite of the free market.
      • And therein lies the problem for winphone in North America

        Canada has the same problem. When the Lumia 920 was released it was exclusive to Rogers, so anybody not wanting to use Rogers ended up with a different (likely Android or iOS) phone. Only a few windows phones are available on various carriers, but for the most part if you want a certain phone you have to hope your carrier has it or you'll end up with a second or third choice or whatever the dealer can convince you to buy. I'm sure this lack of availability is hurting Windows phone sales in North America a great deal.
  • Poland

    Actually. I live in Poland.... and the ONLY (apart from the price) factor that gave WP a figure above 15% is NOKIA. People in Poland have a good opinion on this brand... but after they buy WP... they simply change their mind. The sad thing is that the MAJORITY of phones that sold in Poland are the ones that have WP7... which is like a waste dump - with no support and no upgrade to WP8.