The second report in a week says that Windows Phone sales are skyrocketing, and that Microsoft had a blowout quarter. Does this mean that Windows Phone is breaking into the big time, or is that a misreading of the numbers?
Gartner reports that during the third quarter, Windows Phone sales grew by 123% compared to a year previous, from 4 million units shipped to 8.9 million units shipped. Its share of the smartphone market grew in that same time from 2.3% to 3.6%.
Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, was effusive in praising Microsoft. He wrote
"The winner of this quarter is Microsoft which grew 123 percent. Microsoft announced the intent to acquire Nokia’s devices and services business, which we believe will unify effort and help drive appeal of Windows ecosystem."
Meanwhile, Android consolidated its lock on the market, with 81.9% market share compared to 72.6% a year ago. iOS's market share dipped from 14.3% to 12.1%.
Looked at in terms of percent growth, Microsoft was clearly the winner of the quarter. But in terms of actual growth, that is, the total number of units shipped, it feel further behind both Android and iOS. Here are the actual increases in units shipped for each operating system for the third quarter compared to a year previous:
Keep in mind, by the way, that iOS shipments were likely artificially low because people were waiting to buy until the newest iPhone came out.
Gartner's finding closely mirrors what IDC reported several days ago. IDC found that Windows Phone units grew by 156% in the latest quarter compared to a year ago, a number that IDC called "amazing."
However, if you look at IDC's numbers, you find exactly what you do with Gartner's numbers -- even though Windows Phone had the greatest growth rate, in terms of units shipped, it fell further behind both Android and iOS.
So while there's reason for Microsoft to celebrate Windows Phone's growth, its numbers still aren't up there with the big boys. If its continues to see triple digit growth each quarter that may change. But for now, its high growth rate is attributable to a low starting point, and isn't leading to Windows Phone making up any ground against either Android or iOS.