Gartner: Apple overtakes Microsoft as world’s #3 smartphone OS vendor in Q308

In the third quarter of 2008, the global smartphone market reached its weakest year-on-year growth since Gartner, Inc. began tracking the industry. Worldwide smartphone sales to end-users totalled 36.5 million units in the third quarter of 2008, an 11.5 percent increase from the same period in 2007.

“The current economic climate is negatively impacting sales of higher end devices,” said Roberta Cozza, principal analyst at Gartner, in the press release. “Going forward, we should expect the smartphone device market to continue to grow but at a slower pace. Although leading mobile operators are subsidising more smartphones, to reach lower prices they tie the device to two year contracts with monthly data plan rates which remain too expensive for the mainstream user.”

Nokia maintained its No. 1 position with 42.4 percent market share in the third quarter of 2008, but for the first time it recorded a decline in sales of 3 percent year-on-year. “Nokia is feeling the pressure from increased competition in the consumer smartphone market,” said Ms Cozza. “The company introduced solid Nseries products with top features, but its lack of a commercial touch-screen device in its smartphone portfolio prevented Nokia from capitalising from consumer demand for this feature. The recently announced N97 is a much needed evolution for the n9x series of products. It is unfortunate that the device will not be available before the first half of 2009 as this is a competitive product in today’s market.”

Worldwide: Preliminary Smartphone Sales to End Users by Vendor, 3Q08
(Thousands of Units)

Note: Under the name HTC, Gartner counts only the company’s own-branded devices. The devices that HTC designs for mobile operators are shown separately under the operators’ names in these statistics. Source: Gartner (December 2008)

Sales of Research In Motion’s BlackBerry smartphones increased 81.7 percent in the third quarter of 2008. RIM continued to expand its presence within the consumer segment and refreshed its portfolio with new models and form factors. According to Gartner, “RIM sales will receive a boost from its new products in the fourth quarter. Analysts said the Storm is RIM’s most important product launch to date and has the potential to be a major product for the company.”

MacDailyNews Take: Gartner and/or the “analysts” with whom they’re talking obviously haven’t read any reviews:
NY Times’ Pogue reviews RIM’s BlackBerry Storm: ‘I’ve got a better name for it: BlackBerry Dud’ – November 26, 2008
InformationWeek reviews RIM’s BlackBerry Storm: ‘Tiresome, slow, severe bugginess and problems’ – November 24, 2008
TIME Mag reviews RIM’s BlackBerry Storm: ‘Novelty screen feels cheap; steer clear of this storm’ – November 20, 2008
Chicago Tribune reviews RIM’s BlackBerry Storm: ‘Can’t compete with Apple’s iPhone’ – November 20, 2008
Gizmodo reviews RIM’s BlackBerry Storm: ‘Heavy, laggy, sluggish, unstable, clunky, and tiring’ – November 20, 2008
Engadget reviews RIM’s BlackBerry Storm: ‘Frustrating, inelegant, uncomfortable; a disappointment’ – November 20, 2008
PC World reviews RIM’s BlackBerry Storm: ‘Awkward, disappointing; a failed experiment’ – November 20, 2008
BlackBerry Storm: No Wi-Fi. No iPod. No iTunes App Store. No sale. – November 14, 2008

According to Gartner’s numbers, Apple regained its No. 3 position in the global smartphone market and improved its market share to 12.9 percent in the third quarter of 2008. Apple’s shipments into the channel during the third quarter of 2008 approached 7 million units. However, Apple built up around 2 million units of inventory and Gartner’s sales unit estimate reflects this. Apple’s sales increased more than four times compared to the same period in 2007 as a result of wider geographical availability, new business model and lower pricing, Gartner says.

For the smartphone operating system (OS) market, Symbian commanded 49.8 percent of the global sales to end users in the third quarter of 2008 and for the first time its share went below the 50 percent mark. Nokia’s decline in smartphone sales during the quarter, and continued weakness of the Japanese mobile device market, have impacted Symbian’s share. Gartner expects Symbian share to continue to erode next year but maintain its leading position in the market.

Worldwide: Preliminary Smartphone Sales to End Users by Operating System, 3Q08
(Thousands of Units)

Note: The “Others” category includes sales of Sharp Sidekick devices based on the Danger platform. Source: Gartner (December 2008)

The success of iPhone 3G sales in the third quarter of 2008 propelled Mac OS X [“iPhone OS”] to the No. 3 position in the global OS provider rankings. For the first time, iPhone sales exceeded sales of Microsoft Windows Mobile devices worldwide and in North America. In the shorter term, open-source initiatives like Android and Symbian Foundation will challenge Windows Mobile’s licensing model. In addition, the lack of a competitive user interface will continue to limit Microsoft’s mobile device usability when facing competitive consumer smartphones.

“In 2009, application portfolios will become one of the key strategic considerations for smartphone market players and, if successful, they deliver an alternative revenue stream and will improve consumer stickiness,” Ms Cozza said.

On a regional level, North America was the fastest growing market, with a 68 percent increase in the third quarter of 2008. RIM and Apple did particularly well in the region with both vendors accounting for more than 70 percent of the smartphone market in the third quarter of 2008. Apple regained second position behind RIM with 25.4 percent market share. Smartphone sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) increased 14 percent year-on-year. The region saw Nokia’s share decline nearly 8 percentage points in the third quarter of 2008 but still maintaining its leading position and saw Apple gain the No. 2 spot with 15.6 percent share, moving in front of HTC and RIM.

MacDailyNews Take: Bloodbath.

The markets in Asia/Pacific and Japan declined 11 percent and 23 percent, respectively in the third quarter of 2008. In Latin America, despite the decline in sales for all handsets, the smartphone market grew 56 per cent in the third quarter of 2008. The sales were bolstered by the official introduction of Apple’s iPhone 3G across a dozen of countries.

Additional information is available in the Gartner report “Market Share: Smartphones, Worldwide, 3Q08.”

Source: Gartner, Inc.

There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, April 30, 2007


  1. @MDN: Storm can be both RIM’s most important product launch and botched; these aren’t mutually exclusive. Of course, if both are true, it’s not good news for RIM….

  2. “Great photo MDN, “we’re number 4″ very funny.”

    AND their profit on each device must be far lower than Apple’s as the Borg don’t make any phones, but only supply software for other people’s. OK, their costs must be lower, but so must their margins on each phone sale be.

    MS’s desktop riches are based on lower margins – software only again – but very high volume.

    If you want to make big money out of software-only then you need a near monopoly. But they’re number four.

    They’re getting their arses kicked.

  3. I note that Gartner estimated that two million iPhones were in the channel and therefore deducted that number from Apple’s sales in order to arrive at the number of units sold to end users.

    Does anybody know how many units were assumed to be in the distribution channels of the other manufacturers ?

    Gartner’s report doesn’t mention making a similar adjustment for any other manufacturer. RIM’s sales were only reported to be one million more than Apple’s, but two million iPhones were not counted in Apple’s total.

  4. Like AlanAudio, I have never known Gartner, in measuring phone or PC sales, to make a distinction between sales to end users and sales to the distribution channel. So if they are making an adjustment to Apple, then they’d best be making the same type of adjustment to all the others. Otherwise, the comparisons are useless.

  5. Hmm Mac OS X has an awful lot of market share in the smartphone market considering that it’s not available on smartphones! And what of OS X iPhone? That one seems to be missing!

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  6. Quote overheard: “$500 for a phone?! And it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard. Now it may sell very well, but we have our strategy. We’ve got the MotorolaQ phone right now for $99!”

    Keep laughing, Ballmer, and so will Apple… all the way to the bank.

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