This week brought a flurry of research reports on smartphone-related data for the third quarter. One thing that sticks out is how Apple has gained, in effect, just by holding steady. Technology research firm IDC, for instance, reported Thursday that Apple for the first time had pushed ahead of Research in Motion (RIM) to become the No. 2 smartphone maker worldwide, behind Nokia.
Apple roughly doubled smartphone shipments to 14 million from the year-earlier period, thanks largely to the release of the iPhone 4. But its market share remained virtually unchanged--17.4% compared to 17.3% a year ago. The big difference was that RIM's share slipped from 19.9% to 15.3%, losing ground not just to Apple but manufacturers like Samsung and HTC as well.
Samsung saw the biggest year-over-year gain during the quarter, jumping from a 3% to 8.9% share of the smartphone market, driven by the launch of its Android-powered Galaxy S devices and continued demand for its Wave smartphones, according to IDC. HTC likewise continued to benefit from the popularity of Android-based phones, growing share from 4.9% to 7.2%.
Even though RIM managed to reach a record level of shipments in the quarter, at 12.4 million, it still can't keep up with the growth rate of its competitors. Similarly, Apple's iOS platform passed RIM's BlackBerry OS in market share in the quarter mainly by maintaining its position. So while iOS only increased its share by 1 percentage point to 23%, BlackBerry's share fell from 28% to 22%, according to NPD Group.
Separate data from Nielsen showed Apple's iOS has nearly caught up to the BlackBerry OS in U.S. marketshare, 28% to 30%, even though iOS has been hovering above 25% since last year. But BlackBerry has dropped from about 37% from a year ago, opening the way for iOS to take the lead possibly in the fourth quarter.
Of course, when it comes to smartphone platforms, Android's growth rate has shot past both iOS and BlackBerry. It was installed on 44% of phones sold in the third quarter, well ahead of the low-twenty percentages of its two main rivals, according to NPD. With the expected debut of the Verizon iPhone early next year, Apple may be able to slow down Android's explosive growth somewhat.
The launch of the Windows Phone 7 devices this quarter and into next year could also change the landscape and get Microsoft back into the smartphone game, depending on well they sell--a big "if" in light of the Kin debacle earlier this year.