Nokia and Windows Phone's impressive growth in Europe last year hit a wall in the final months of 2013 — stuck, it seems, at 10 percent.
The rapid rise of Windows Phone in Europe last year, due mainly to increases in Nokia sales — in particular its low-end Lumia 520 and 620 — came to end in the three months to December 31, according to figures from Kantar World Panel Comtech published on Monday.
Despite Nokia being the third most commonly "gifted" smartphone brand in the all-important Christmas period (behind Samsung and Apple), it failed to move the needle in Europe for Windows Phone.
Across Europe's big five markets (Germany, the UK, France, Italy, and Spain), Windows Phone accounted for 10.3 percent of sales, up year-on-year, but flat quarter-on-quarter.
"Windows Phone has now held double digit share across Europe for three consecutive months. Unfortunately for Nokia the European smartphone market is only growing at 3 percent year-on-year so success in this market has not been enough to turn around its fortunes — reflected in its recent disappointing results. Its performance also deteriorated toward the end of 2013 in the important growth markets of China, USA and Latin America," said Kantar's strategic insights director, Dominic Sunnebo.
The report follows Nokia's confirmation last week that Lumia sales were 8.2 million for the last quarter of 2013. Nokia sold 8.8 million Lumia devices in Q3, up from 7.4 million the quarter before, which Nokia attributed at the time to increased sales of the Lumia 520.
Nokia in November launched the Lumia 525, a variant of the Lumia 520 with slightly improved specs, but the launch was limited to emerging markets, bypassing Europe and the US.
In the final three months of 2013, Windows Phone accounted for 5.9 percent of smartphone sales in Germany, 11.3 percent in the UK, 11.4 percent in France, 17.1 percent in Italy, and 5.6 percent in Spain.
Android still dominates in Europe's big five with 68.6 percent share of sales, followed by iOS at 18.5 percent.
Meanwhile, in the US, Windows Phone made up 4.3 percent of sales, behind Android at 50.6 percent and iOS at 43.9 percent.
Xiaomi topples Samsung in China?
Samsung, the world's largest smartphone manufacturer, is also beginning to face challenges in key markets, including in Europe and China, according to Kantar. The analyst notes Samsung sales were down 2.2 percentage points year on year in Europe to 40.3 percent.
Samsung also lost its crown in China to upstart Xiaomi — maker of the Mi2, Mi3 and low-end Red Rice phone — which became the country's biggest smartphone seller.
"In December, Xiaomi overtook both Apple and Samsung to become the top selling smartphone in China — a truly remarkable achievement for a brand which was only started in 2010 and sells its device almost exclusively online," Sunnebo said.
"The combination of high spec devices, low prices and an ability to create unprecedented buzz through online and social platforms has proved an irresistible proposition for the Chinese."
Xiaomi has previously pipped Apple for market share in China, but hasn't come close to knocking Samsung from its perch. In November, analyst firm Canalys reported Samsung's share in China was 21 percent, well ahead of local rivals such as Xiaomi, as well as Apple. None of Samsung's rivals had double-digit shares at the time.
In China, Windows Phone's market share is 1.1 percent, behind iOS at 19 percent and Android at 78.6 percent.
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