iPhone regaining market share, but sales down year on year

Kantar's smartphone sales market share report for the three months ending November 2013 shows iOS gaining while Windows Phone plateaus.

Apple's latest pair of iPhones, the 5s and 5c, are starting to gain traction and have reversed Cupertino's fortunes after the company experienced a sales market share nadir during July and August last year, Kanter's latest smartphone market share report shows.

Across the board, Apple's market share has increased over the past three months, but, with the exception of Spain in the list of countries included in the report, the iPhone's total sales market share has decreased since the same three-month window last year.

In the world's major markets, the iPhone presently accounts for 43.1 percent of the market in the United States, which is down from the 53 percent for the three months ending November 2012; in China, iOS claims 17 percent of the market, which represents a drop of 1.5 percent year on year; in Western Europe, the fall in market share over the past 12 months is 6.5 percent, leaving Apple with 24.6 percent; and in Australia, Apple retains 35 percent of the market, which is a fall of only 0.5 percent.

The stand-out country for Apple is Japan, which continues its hunger for iOS, with the company able to claim 69.1 percent of the smartphone market in the country.

"While there's no doubt that sales of the iPhone 5s and 5c have been strong, resurgent performances from LG, Sony, and Nokia have made making year-on-year share gains increasingly challenging for Apple," said Dominic Sunnebo, strategic insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

Sunnebo said that although the iPhone 5s and 5c attract different customers, both groups are happy with the device.

"Some people worried that Apple was risking its historically high consumer satisfaction levels by releasing a lower-cost, plastic iPhone. However, the latest data for the US shows that the iPhone 5c has an average owner recommendation score of 9/10 versus 9.1/10 for the iPhone 5s," he said.

Much of the gains seen for iOS have come at the expense of Android, with the continued decline of BlackBerry also contributing market share.

Despite making remarkable gains over the past year , Windows Phone has found itself in the doldrums over recent months.

While the Microsoft operating system is able to boast about doubling its share of sales across Western Europe in the past 12 months, and can even point to a tripling of its penetration in France, its share of sales for the three months until the end of November has either steadied or fallen. The only reported exceptions to this trend have been in the trio of romantic strongholds for Windows Phone found in France, Spain, and Italy.

In the US, its sales market share has sat between 4.6 and 4.8 percent for the past three months; in the five major Western European economies, it has moved between 9.8 and 10.2 percent over the same period of time; for China, Windows Phone jumped from 2.5 to 3.5 percent last month, but fell back to 2.7 percent for this month.

In Australia over the past three reports, Windows Phone's market share has fallen from an all-time high of 9.3 percent in the three months ending September 2013 to currently sit at 6.9 percent. The news for Windows Phone is even worse in Japan, where after posting only 0.4 percent for last month's report, Kantar says Windows Phone now clocks in at a positively unhealthy 0.0 percent. By contrast, BlackBerry in Japan is drying up as well, but it is still able to clock in at 0.1 percent.

Despite Nokia having a large presence in China and being an easier and more rewarding market for Windows Phone, with Nokia's recent purchase by Microsoft for $7.2 billion , Sunnebo said that he could not see Microsoft changing its focus from the US.

"You don't have to conquer China and the US to win in the smartphone market, but you do need success in one of them," Sunnebo said. "At the moment, there are few signs of progress in either country for Windows Phone, and momentum needs to be made soon before OS loyalty severely limits the available market."

"With Microsoft soon running the show, it's hard to imagine a change in strategic direction away from the US."