Preston Gralla

Is Samsung riding in to save Windows Phone?

August 19, 2013 2:04 PM EDT

A new Samsung Windows Phone has been sighted, and although its specs aren't spectacular, it's one piece of evidence that Samsung may finally pay serious attention to Windows Phone. If so, that could help boost Microsoft's smartphone OS, which currently has a 3.3% worldwide market share.

For now, Windows Phone is being propped up by a single manufacturer: Nokia. The latest figures from AdDuplex show that worldwide, Nokia has 87% of Windows Phone 8 market share, with HTC at 10%, Samsung at 2%, and Huawei at 1%. Samsung does not have a single phone in the top ten Windows Phone 8 devices in the U.S. Worldwide, the Samsung ATIV S is the only Samsung device in the top ten, at number ten, with 2% market share. If you combine Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8, Samsung doesn't have a single device in the top ten worldwide.

Without the world's biggest smartphone manufacturer putting serious money and marketing dollars behind Windows Phone, it's hard to imagine that the platform will ever seriously take off.

There's some evidence, though, that Samsung is committed to growing the platform. The Droid Guy reports that a new Samsung Windows Phone, code-named SGH-I187, has been sighted, but not yet released. It's not knock-your-socks off, high-end phone, but has respectable specs, with a standard-issue 1,280 x 720 pixels resolution and a dual-core CPU. The Droid Guy says that benchmark scores for it show that it's faster than the ATIV S and HTC Windows Phone 8X, and slower than the Nokia Lumia 920.

Those modest specs, though, are not necessarily a bad thing. Research from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech says that Windows Phone's strength is not at the high end, but in attracting budget-conscious first-time smartphone buyers. Kantar Worldpanel ComTech analyst Mary-Ann Parlato has said:

"Windows strength appears to be the ability to attract first time smartphone buyers, upgrading from a featurephone. Of those who changed their phone over the last year to a Windows smartphone, 52% had previously owned a featurephone...with over half of the US market still owning a featurephone, it's likely that many will upgrade over the coming year, which will ultimately contribute to more growth for the Windows brand."

So Samsung released a moderately price phone rather than a top-end phone would be a good sign for Microsoft. Nokia will continue to release high-end phones. If Samsung commits to more modest phones, Microsoft will quickly gain more than its current 3.3% market share.