Windows Phone overtakes BlackBerry in the UK, but who wants to be number three?

Windows Phone overtakes BlackBerry in the UK, but who wants to be number three?

Summary: New research foresees BlackBerry falling behind Windows Phone, but Android and iOS remain the dominant platforms in a consumer-oriented smartphone market.


BlackBerry will lose third place in the UK smartphone market to Windows Phone this year, according to research company eMarketer.

BlackBerry users are predicted to decline by 35 percent this year, hitting a new low of 2.4 million. This is grim enough reading for BlackBerry executives, but the research firm claims the drop will be even steeper in 2015, leaving just 1.4 million BlackBerry devices in the hands of UK smartphone users.

Windows Phone meanwhile, is rising "substantially" in popularity and will see 3.5 million users by the end of 2015. That will give it a nine percent share of the market, compared to 3.5 percent for BlackBerry.

The numbers show just how far BlackBerry has fallen from grace, said Bill Fisher, UK analyst at eMarketer. While Microsoft is making a significant effort to grow its presence, through buying Nokia's mobile phone unit and HTC's Windows-powered One M8, "BlackBerry appears to have been treading water," Fisher said.

It's worth noting that these figures are actually slightly more positive than those from other market researchers such as Kantar, which now lumps BlackBerry into the 'others' category with bedfellows such as Symbian and Firefox OS because its share has dropped so low.

BlackBerry was once the dominant smartphone manufacturer, and carved out a lucrative niche providing mobile access to email, particularly for business users. But as the iPhone and then Android devices arrived, the company failed to respond quickly enough to the challenges they embodied: the rise of touchscreens to rival BlackBerry's hardware Qwerty keyboard, and the flood of cheaper consumer smartphones. It even tried to make its own tablet, with little success, while its BlackBerry 10 operating system and handsets were solid but failed to inspire.

BlackBerry does still have a loyal business customer base and recently showcased a number of wins for its BlackBerry 10 smartphones among law firms. Last year, for example, Clifford Chance rolled out BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry Q10 smartphones to 1,600 employees. And BlackBerrys are also still prized in government for their robust security. Recently, UK prime minister David Cameron said: "Wherever I am in the world I am always within a few feet of a BlackBerry".

A two-horse race

And while Microsoft will be heartened to see it has overtaken BlackBerry, winning the race for the number three spot is hardly an enormous achievement. The smartphone market in the UK remains a two-horse race, at least for now.

Android-based handsets account for an outright majority of smartphones in the UK, with iOS running on another 30 percent of smartphones, covering a total of 83.5 percent of the market. That may rise to 85.5 percent of the market next year. Clearly, being number three in such a market is not especially impressive and Microsoft will have to push hard to make more of an impact here.

In some respects, the smartphone market represents the victory of the consumer over the business user — as in the tablet and, increasingly, the PC markets. Consumers are calling the shots, pushing the needs of business users into the background.

BlackBerry and Windows Phone are still very much seen as business smartphone options, and while this was once a sought-after label, it's now more of a millstone.

Now read this

Topics: Mobility, Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Guess What...

    Sometimes you have no choice.
    Better be number 3 than dead.
    • You have to be number three before you're number two

      and so on.

      But then again, I guess the author forgot that nobody WANTS to be number two, either.....
      • Its a one horse race

        Android is the horse. Everyone else is turtles. However market share is meaningless. The important thing is that you have choices and you get the phone that you like. For example; I have a Buick Enclave SUV, its not the best selling car at all, but it sure is great for me.
        Sean Foley
      • winners

        In this case numbers one and two are happy. Apple makes high margins from product sales: as a smartphone maker it is number 1. There is no 'android' factory; it's an OS with the job of sending traffic to google, and it's a smash hit. Google is now I guess the leading OS vendor; who would have predicted that ten years ago? Microsoft sells software licences and via the acquisition of Nokia is a manufacturer. Neither model is working for Microsoft. There will never be licence revenue in mobile OS so who can understand what success means for Microsoft in mobile? Is it to be the only gateway to Office, which is what locks in desktop users? Over my dead body says Office, which is what would happen. Microsoft doesn't need devices; Devices and Services is a justification for a mess. Windows Phone seems pointless from a shareholder perspective.
        • Shareholder perspective?

          Hey, I think your posting on the wrong site. This isn't the Wall Street Journal. Its ZDNet where technology matters, and Windows Phone technology is excellent! -- just ask the ZDNet authors.
          Sean Foley
        • You don't even make sense

          ... unless a whole raft of questionable assumptions are taken as given.
    • but WP is unoprofitable

      but WP is highly unoprofitable

      thanks God Microsoft abuses patent system and has 2 billions ransom a year from Android manufacturers
      Jiří Pavelec
  • Markets change

    Before iOS Apple was an underperforming, over priced PC vendor but look at them now. The market moved for them and they've been riding the crest of the wave.

    Next time the market moves maybe MS will benefit, especially if it moves in the direction of a more unified OS/Platform direction.

    Thankfully Apple never said never.
    • "maybe MS will benefit"

      Sure. But maybe not. There's zero evidence to suggest that just because Apple turned things around, M$ will do the same.

      For a start, iPhone - in its day - was infinitly more revutionary and market-disruptive than WP.

      I'm not saying it can't happen; but there's no evidence to say it WILL happen.
      • No evidence that Android or iOS will be where it's at either

        so not sure what you're getting at. But then again, that seems to be your norm..
  • number 3

    "And while Microsoft will be heartened to see it has overtaken BlackBerry, winning the race for the number three spot is hardly an enormous achievement."

    Let's ask number 4, 5, and 6 about that, shall we? A 9% share is pretty much what Apple has in South America, Africa, Asia.
    • Except that M$ does NOT have 9%

      ... That's just guesswork. Note that carefully DID NOT give M$'s current market share ...

      So far, they HAVE NOT overtaken Blackberry. And when they do, it'll be because Blackberry are falling, NOT because WP is rising.
      • That is not what the article said.

        You are correct that this is a forecast, but it is a forecast based on trending. "Windows Phone meanwhile, is rising "substantially" in popularity and will see 3.5 million users by the end of 2015. That will give it a nine percent share of the market compared to 3.5 percent for BlackBerry."

        So it is cleary indicating that WP is trending up while BB is trending down.

        Still as a Z10 owner, when BB releases the BB Passport in a month or so, maybe BB's fortune will be better. They seem to be doing well in emerging markets and BB OS 10.3 makes it easier to install android apps (not that is very hard now) by having the Amazon Appstore installed out of the box. But to make many android apps work really well they need to handle Google Play services which they currently don't.

        I of course prefer "native" C++ apps over Android java. Make no mistake Blackberry is a great phone. The passport may be a game change because it has a new form factor and if you want a physical keyboard and a touch screen BB is the best way to go.

        We are also waiting for BES 12 which will allow secure push messaging and corporate app installation to legacy BB, BB 10, iPhone, Android and WP. This could be huge for BB as there is nothing else like it. BB 10 is the only smarphone that has achieved the most stringent security ratings our government has.
        • BB 10

          is a very nice OS. But is it enough to make people change from android or IOS? That is what BB needs. As for how many people want a physical keyboard with a touch screen; my guess is not enough.
  • "Windows Phone ... will see 3.5 million users by the end of 2015"

    Pure guesswork.

    eMarketer is assuming the same level of subsidy form Microsoft as has been applied for the past year - but there's no guarantee this will happen.

    And who commissioned this report? One guess ...

    And I'm guessing it's no coincidence that EVERY eMarketer report concludes nice things about Microsoft.

    And it's NO coincidence that both Burson Marstellar AND eMarketer are both subsidiaries of WPP.

    And it's no surprise that ZDnet presents this public relations BS as 'fact'.
    • And educated guess based on statistical trends?

      Time will tell but I find most of these analysis tend to pan out. I don't think they are getting this from nothing. They have a graph based on data and if the trend doesn't change they see both BB losing share and MS gaining share. It doesn't matter if you and like it or not, you have to deal with the data. As I said time will tell. I would prefer to see BB gaining share as I really really like BB phones but it may not happen.
  • Article: "who wants to be number three?"

    Ask all of those Olympic athletes that won a bronze medal. They may not have "wanted" to be number three, but the vast majority were happy, in the end, to get the bronze. And if these athletes weren't too old when winning the bronze medal, many were back again in 4 years to try for a gold or silver medal.

    I'm sure that Microsoft would rather be number three than number four. However, catching up with Apple worldwide from a market share perspective will be a lot easier than catching up with Apple from a revenue and, especially, profit perspective.

    Does Microsoft have the heart for it? That's debatable, but it does have tons of cash and revenue coming in to allow it to stay in the race and compete. In the Olympics, this event is equivalent to the marathon or 50 km cross-country skiing, a long-distance race.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • "Windows Phone overtakes BlackBerry in the UK"

    Not exactly a significant milestone. It remains WP is nowhere close to where it should be in Android and iPhone territory.

    Why don't Microsoft just cut their losses ditch the WP project altogether and go Android as they should have done upon the takeover of Nokia.

    The Microsoft X Phone running Android would have made for a far more compelling product which would have given them a chance of direct competition with the likes of Apple and Samsung.
    • Maybe when Apple cuts their losses

      and ditches OS X for Windows as they should have done upon from the beginning.
      • They actually thought of it at one point

        Gil Amelio almost did a deal with Bill Gates to do an Apple skinned version of Windows NT. THen he interviewed some guys (Gasse and Jobs), bought NeXT instead, and the rest is history.