Windows Phone: Attacking a brick wall with a marshmallow

Windows Phone: Attacking a brick wall with a marshmallow

Summary: A long-term view is helpful when dealing with the ongoing bloodsport known as mobile operating system market share.


Earlier this week, I looked at the recent gains made by Windows Phone in Kantar's monthly smartphone sales data report. In it, I pointed out that the report only deals in percentages, and, as such, there was quite a bit of wiggle room and interpretation with the numbers available, since the overall sales numbers were not known.

However, with the overall sales numbers for Australia now in our possession, it's possible to gain a better look into what is happening in the local market.

To open proceedings this time, let's start with a graph that quantifies what's being shown when we saw Windows Phone sales in Australia jump in September.

Click to enlarge.
(Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet)

The first point to note from the above graph is that any sort of BlackBerry "revival" has yet to materialise. From ZDNet's calculations, the Canadian handset maker has not sold over 10,000 devices in a month for two years.

The real story, though, is Windows Phone — the Microsoft-run operating system not only had a large jump in sales in September, it also doubled the August sales number, from just over 22,000 devices to almost 49,000. But while Windows Phone sales are increasing, they are not yet at the level experienced by the widely panned Symbian operating system in October 2011.

While Windows Phone had growth in the triple-figure percentage, the entire smartphone market in Australia grew from 343,103 smartphone sales in August to 524,051 in September; just under 53 percent growth.

To better illustrate the point, looking at pure sales numbers, Windows Phone sold an extra 26,000 handsets, Android moved 77,000 more units in September, and Apple sold 74,000 devices. It works out that for September, almost six times more Android and three and a half times more Apple handsets were sold than Windows Phone devices.

Click to enlarge.
(Image:Chris Duckett/ZDNet)

In Monday's article, I pointed out that when looking at the graph of sales percentages in Australia, Android and iOS tend to mirror each other's movements.

When looking at pure sales numbers and not percentages, it's clear to see that the two dominant mobile operating systems dwarf the competition, and stay more or less in sync with each other, and with the market in general.

It also shows that the Christmas flurry of phone sales is a definite, measurable phenomenon. The table below shows sales in Australia between November 2012 and January 2013.

Month endingTotalSmartphoneNon-Smartphone
November 30, 2012 607,169 502,170 104,999
December 31, 2012 958,101 748,565 209,536
January 31, 2013 523,721 412,893 110,828

In 2012, the Christmas spike increased purchases across the board, except for Windows Phone, which saw sales decrease for each month shown on the table above.

When one good month doesn't make a dent

If we take an even longer view of the smartphone market in Australia, it is possible to see why Windows Phone's increased sales in September mean almost nothing at all.

Click to enlarge.
(Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet)

According to the figures used to create this graph, the percentage of "market share" that Windows Phone grew by in September was a mere 0.23 percent.

Now, I'll be the first to tell you that my assumptions — the first being that no smartphones existed in the country before October 2011, and that each and every smartphone is still active — are horribly, horribly wrong. That's why I'm calling it "market share", but it does serve the purpose of representing the cumulative size of the challenge that Microsoft is facing as it goes up against Apple and Android.

For the past two years up until September 30, Australians have purchased 6 million smartphones annually: Android is approaching its 7 millionth device sold in that time, and Apple is closing in on 4 million; in the same window, Windows Phone has only just surpassed the half-million barrier.

In terms of devices sold, Windows Phone is not even in the same order of magnitude as Android, and is barely able to claim the magnitude order with iOS. It's little wonder, then, that Windows Phone finds itself struggling to keep developer attention.

What Windows Phone needs is not one month of sales approaching 10 percent, which means one in 10 devices sold; it needs several months where it gains 20 to 30 percent of sales, or optimally, achieve that fabled point of 33 percent when Microsoft can then lay claim to being responsible for one in three mobile phones sold.

The longer it takes Windows Phone to hit that point, the bigger the head start that it is giving to Android and Apple, and the closer it is to being utterly swamped by the market.

Topics: Mobile OS, Android, iOS, Windows Phone


Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

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  • They are a great phone

    Good thread again mate, no bias just stats.
    For the price i actually enjoy my Lumina 800. I just wish they would update it a little more often as the last one was over a year ago. I brought me missus a 520 and for $160 AU, thats cheap mate. Me and her dont want an iPhone or anything else thats too flashy and designed for people who think alfoil is fun because its shinny, all i need to do is hot Spot, check me emails and send sms/mms and take a photo or 2.
    Who the hell reads websites on their phone anyway, you would have to be hooked or really desperate for attention to sit there and read tiny text on a tiny screen.

    My biggest hate with the Windows phones is the stupid keyboard. It sucks farts from a dead sea gulls bum as far as i am concerned so i limit my texting to < 1 a week. If people want to talk to me they call me or i call them, i think society is getting too far away from actual interaction because of shinny smart phones!

    My next step is to get the company Directors away from their iPads and iPhones, i get sick of having to help them with constant updates that fail and getting the iPads to talk on a windows network, especially with printers.
    • WP8 might be better than WP7...

      ...not sure, but I didn't realize how much better the WP8 keyboard is than the iPhone 4s (not sure if it is better on the 5), but I had to send a text on my wife's phone and it was terrible.
    • Ridiculous

      We suffer these "spin" promotional articles in the UK too. Sales increase a massive percentage from "Nothing" lol.

      No one seems to know anyone who uses Windows 8 or Phone OS and actually likes it. Perhaps they brought up free phones to GIVE to MS employees. No one else seems to want them. Why continue to invest time and money into pushing a product on people that don't want it. Stupidity at best. If I were on the board I'd be looking for new leadership.
      • I know serveral people

        Just because you don't know anyone, doesn't mean there aren't real people in the world. Try going to people. Stop trolling.
    • The keyboard sucks??

      Okay this might seem awkward to some of you, but i actually found the keyboard on WP platform much better than on my Galaxy S2 running on Jelly Bean, on my GS2 the buttons dont function exactly as i want, so i dont get the best typing experience, but on my brother's Lumia 820 i like the way the keyboard functions, wherever i tap i get the response i want, as well as on both of my father's and mother's Lumia 520's, the keyboard is really comfortable...sometimes i even switched my GS2 keyboard to WP style...
      Ammar Salman
  • Another Troll article...

    You're on a roll. A jelly roll.
    • Agree

      What was it three in a week.
  • Metro

    Don't like win 8.0, don't like win 8.1, don't like the tile experience, not going to buy a windows phone. Win 7 and Android for me. Just my personal opinion.
    • This is a phone article...

      ...we don't care about your opinion!
      • Who is "we"?

        You are not a moderator, so please don't presume to speak for everyone else here. For example, I personally do not care for *your* opinion.
    • Agreed

      One word - agreed.
    • I can't see why people prefer Win7

      well, switching to Win7 from XP took me a lot of time to do, win7 was really messy and not orginized, i didnt like it when i switched, and i still dont like it, actually it didnt last much on both of my soon as the 8 was released, i switched to 8, so i spent less than a year using win7, as for me, i found 8 much better, i dont need to get any drivers for my computers anymore, win8 recognizes everything without needing me, and video games perform much better on windows 8 than on 7, and even better on win8.1, also the speed of the computer is something i cant give away easily, win7 used to take my laptop, which has an i5 processor with 4 gb of ram, long time to boot, it was disgusting, i like the windows 8 and even liked 8.1 more, u should try them, they are not only about TILES
      Ammar Salman
      • I can't see why people prefer Win7

        4 GB is very low for decent multitasking, if you increase the memory to just 8GB (16GB is best), you will be amazed on performance increase even with the lowly win7, let alone win8. the reason your boot time takes long time is because of disk thrashing ...
    • Dangerous

      Doesn't really matter what smartphone you like, it's what works for you. I won't use an android phone simply because I value my personal info and safety when using my phone. A platform that doesn't even check/vet apps before allowing people to upload them live to the marketplace has asked for lots of trouble. That's why android is a virus hothouse and I can't afford to have my banking or personal info stolen by people that put viruses into apps.

      That being said, I have an iphone and a windows phone and they are both awesome. I find the live tiles intuitive and I don't have to dig down levels into an app to get to info. I also dislike the android tacky look. Hodge podges of wiget sizes and shapes look awful and I like a little more order on my screen... and it's refreshing to have a new take on a phone screen than silly standard icons.

      So just get what you like but be proactive and safe in your choice. I'm sure most people stating they like a particular phone like Android can't even list 5 valid reasons why it is any better or what the updates bring to them that they actually use, or are even aware exist... why care if all you do is text and take selfies and reply to an occasional email...
  • IOW

    They are growing but the market is outpacing them by a huge margin!!!!

    When will Microsoft get it that few want their garbage?
    • Such a poor chap.

      When will itguy10 learn that hundreds of millions of people own and use Microsoft products every day...

      What a very confused individual, mistaking their false numbers for facts, selfishly assuming that everybody in the world shares their perspective.

      I do very well hope that they can survive in life, with self-secluded thoughts like those.
      • No-one is debating the hundreds of millions of people

        own and use MS products daily.

        What is debatable is their desire to do so, especially when it comes to Windows 8. Many, if not most, people have little choice but to use W8 even though they do not like it.

        I am sure that there are many people who like the W8 UI and who enjoy using it and yet, so far, I have yet to meet anyone who actually like W8; no-one!

        People like you just cannot get it through your thick heads that the W8 UI is despised by the majority. Users don't ant to hate MS, not do they want to hate W8, but given what they confront every time they try to use it, there is little other choice.
        • I repeat, you are NOT the majority.

          Stop speaking like you are.

          I never said anything about Windows 8 either, now did I?

          No need to blatantly insult me for something that I didn't talk about.

          Again, you have no idea what the majority speaks of, simply due to the fact that nobody does.

          We're called the vocal minority for a reason, and that name is well earned.

          The people I know don't give a damn what OS they're running, a PC is a PC.

          Does that make me right? Of course not.

          You, like me, are nothing more than two different shaped stones among the landslide.

          Just because we're shinier than normal doesn't mean that we're more important than the rest.
          • Yes he is the MAJORITY...

            ...did you not read the article. 96% have rejected the windows phone. And on desktops W8 users are definitely the minority.
            Get a clue
          • Windows 8 - no chance

            I've not read that article. Where is it?

            What you've just said reflects my experience of Windows 8 entirely though. NO ONE I've met seems to like it at ALL. MORE than 90% haven't touched it and wouldn't want to. Of those that remain, they have tried it out of interest and HATE it lol.

            Trying to continue pushing out a product so disliked just seems to be stupidity to me, unless the aim is to put people off Windows entirely and encourage them to look elsewhere.