IDC: Windows Phone to surpass Apple’s iOS by 2016

The worldwide mobile phone market is forecast to grow slightly more than 4.0% year over year in 2012, the lowest annual growth rate since 2009, due to a sharp decline in the feature phone market and sluggish global economic conditions. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors will ship a total of nearly 1.8 billion mobile phones this year, compared to 1.7 billion units shipped in 2011. By the end of 2016, IDC forecasts 2.3 billion mobile phones will be shipped to the channel.

The slow growth in the overall mobile phone market is primarily due to the projected 10.0% decline in feature phone shipments this year. Many owners of feature phones, sometimes known as “talk and text” devices, are holding on to their phones in light of uncertain job and economic prospects. Despite the decline in shipments, feature phones will still comprise 61.6% of the total mobile phone market this year.

In comparison, the smartphone market will largely offset the feature phone decline with shipments forecast to grow 38.8% year over year to 686 million units this year. The high demand for smartphones is being fuelled by high carrier subsidies, falling average selling prices and component costs, increased awareness and device diversity, and lower-cost data plans among other factors. As a result, smartphone purchases are an increasingly attractive option for a growing number of users.

“The smartphone parade won’t be as lively this year as it has been in past,” said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, in the press release. “The mobile phone user transition from feature phones to smartphones will continue in a gradual but unabated fashion. Smartphone growth, however, will increasingly be driven by a triumvirate of smartphone operating systems, namely Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7.”

Smartphone Operating Systems

“Underpinning the smartphone market is the constantly shifting OS landscape,” added Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC’s Mobile Phone Technology and Trends team. “Android will maintain leadership throughout our forecast, while others will gain more mobile operator partnerships (Apple) or currently find themselves in the midst of a major transition (BlackBerry and Windows Phone/Windows Mobile). What remains to be seen is how these different operating systems – as well as others – will define and shape the user experience beyond what we see today in order to attract new customers and encourage replacements.”

IDC projects Android will remain the most shipped smartphone operating system over the course of the five-year forecast though its share will peak this year. Increasingly, its share and growth will be driven by Samsung sales. This Android stratification will happen even as more devices powered by Google’s mobile OS from a wide variety of phone makers enter the market.

iOS will continue its impressive run thanks to strong iPhone 4S momentum in North America, Western Europe, and Asia/Pacific, specifically China, this year. Growth will moderate over the five-year forecast given the large installed base Apple has accumulated, which means more of its addressable market will be on replacement cycles. Emerging market growth is of utmost importance if iOS is to gain share. Although a small market share decline is expected, IDC expects significant overall shipment volume growth to continue through 2016.

Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile will gain share despite a slow start. Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile will be aided by Nokia’s strength in key emerging markets. IDC expects it to be the number 2 OS with more than 19% share in 2016, assuming Nokia’s foothold in emerging markets is maintained.

There will continue to be a market for BlackBerry OS-powered devices, despite Research In Motion’s current woes. This is true in emerging markets, for example, where users are looking for affordable messaging devices. However, the gulf between the BlackBerry OS and its primary competition will widen over the forecast as the mobile phone market becomes increasingly software/app-oriented and the “bring your own device” enterprise trend proliferates.

The death knell of Symbian as a widely-used smartphone OS was sounded last year when Nokia said all of its smartphones would eventually be powered by Windows Phone OS. This announcement precipitated an Osborne-like effect that resulted in a sharp decline in Symbian’s market share. It also led to share gains for competitive operating systems, namely Android and iOS. IDC expects Symbian-powered smartphone shipments to all but cease by 2014. Clearly, Nokia and Microsoft need to quickly switch Symbian OS user allegiances to Windows Phone 7 in order to maintain relevancy in the smartphone race.

Worldwide Smartphone Operating System 2012 and 2016 Market Share and 2012-2016 Compound Annual Growth Rate
IDC Worldwide Smartphone Operating System 2012 and 2016 Market Share and 2012-2016 Compound Annual Growth Rate
Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, June 6, 2012

Source: International Data Corporation

MacDailyNews Take: iCal giggled when we added this one.

We look forward to next June’s article, “IDC: Windows Phone to surpass Apple’s iOS by 2017,” with bated breath.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “SouthRoad” for the heads up.]

Related article:
IDC: Windows Phone to surpass Apple’s iOS by 2015 – June 10, 2011


  1. Why do they always keep expecting Microsoft to surge ahead at some point in the future?

    Microsoft got lucky with DOS, and that’s it. Everything else is momentum from that.

    Mobile is a new game, and these analysts assume that momentum is somehow transferable. It’s not.

    1. You know these idiots are drinking the Kool-Aid when you see Blackberry OS with 5.9% market share in 2016. I am not sure that they will even be around in 2013 at this point. They may go Chapter 11 or what ever they call it in Canada by year’s end.

      Clueless idiots!

    2. Good question, Cold. The fickle consumer market that is mobile phones is not like the early ’80s in business computing, where conformity was not only practical but was cool for “business” wannabe individuals.

      A prediction four years into the future is an absurd non-prediction by a market research firm that wants to seem like they posses near-magical forecasting prowess. Just think about how the RIM Blackberry was perceived four years ago: it was called the “Crackberry” and there were fevered reports of near panic during Blackberry service outages in Washington, D.C. because of how addicted the politicians and bureaucrats were to the Blackberry. Such eports at the time totally ignored the iPhone even though it had been on the market for a while. Just four years later, RIM is looking like a bug splat on Apple’s windshield of life.

      Four years from now, Windows Phone OS might be used as an adjective, like “Zune” is today to denote “total consumer marketing abortion.”

      The IDC emperor has no clothes here.

      1. And it really might matter if all markets were the same. They are not. Apple will continue to have 80% or more of smart phone profit share. These analyst idiots throw around market share like it means something. Tell me about profit share. Apple owns it today and will own it in 2016

  2. When is Apple going to sue everyone’s ASS off for the hundreds of copyright infringements? Windows and Android phone would not exist if Apple didn’t reinvent the whole friggin platform!!!

    1. great point.

      At this stage, Apple can not do a damn thing but to look for the next big idea. Apple keeps cryin’ don’t copy us…
      Waaaaaaaa. We got patents but seem useless in the mobile market. We threaten to go thermo-nulclear and destroy all others.

      Meanwhile Microsoft earns a good portion from Android. Perhaps Oracle will earn some too. Talks hint at Apple maybe earn a few bucks off Android also. And yet, Google claims it earns nothing.

      What a mess and such a joke.
      People, buy what you need and can afford.

      Misplacing a 700 buck phone, will hurt the pockets of anyone. I won’t leave my MacBook Air in a cafe. But I have lost my cellphone while rushing down the street in a hurry to hail a cab.

  3. These people don’t live in the real world. Note the important word “assuming” in the line about Windows Phone overtaking iOS. That’s a mighty big assumption.

    1. I always end up being as anal as these anal-ysts by counting the number of ‘ifs’ ‘maybes’ ‘mights’ ‘coulds’ in the article. For once this projection is remarkably void on that score. But, you’re right, that’s a big ask when ‘assuming’ all those WM and Symbian users will convert to WM 7 when that share currently stands at < 2%.
      Doing the math, MS would have to have 300% growth YoY just to catch Apples current numbers. I'd say that is an impossibility even if they could find the capacity to build that many, which again, is not currently possible.
      It must be gut wrenching to see your credibility shredded so often when hoisting these predictions to the top of the flagpole.

  4. Didn’t these same people predict that the Zune would overtake the iPod by 2011? Seems like a similar kind of prediction (whether they actually made it or not)…

  5. Giggle if you will, but there are a lot of great minds that work for companies other than Apple and I have to admit that the Nokia 900 is a very nice and yes a well performing device. I learnt a long time ago to never under estimate a competitor and in particular the likes of Microsoft. Apple has had a great run but there continues to be giants like MS, Samsung, Sony and others who have had their day and are building towards their next day.

    1. You’re right. Surely Apple is not still planning and building anything new.

      There’s only one problem – MS, Samsung, and others have now basically relegated themselves to waiting to see what Apple does in this space and THEN they try to copy it in the hopes that they can get some marketshare (and if they’re lucky, some profit).

      Their “next day” is always many days away…

    1. You are correct.

      Just look at the number ‘Ultrabooks’ that were released this week at Computex to get an understanding of how terrorized Wintel is about Apple.

      Intel, PC vendors, and Microsoft are all slinging mud at the wall hoping that something will ‘stick’ with consumers.

      They are soiling their shorts re: Apple and are desperately trying to keep from being swamped by Apple’s wake.

      And this is just in the ‘PC zone’.

      Apple’s iPhone continues to be very popular, but they need to nuke the Android OS, quickly. Eric Mole has pulled a Bill Gates with the Android OS. As soon as Apple is able to put a knife into Android, then there be no other ‘smartphone’.

      If Tim Cook equivocates and lets Android live, then he will be no better than John Sculley.

  6. Not a shred of reasoning behind explosive growth of Windows Phone? It’s as if they are saying the market will expand as more consumers chose smartphones, but Apple won’t pick up any of that larger pie.
    Perhaps they really are prescient: By 2016 Apple will have a product that eclipses the “smartphone” much like iPod touch eclipsed the iPod.

    1. Idiots (who) Don’t (have a) Clue.

      These analysts seem to think Microsoft will automatically in perpetuity have the right or privilege to be Number One by virtue of having HAD an OS with a major market share. They are precisely the type of company doomed to fail having lucked into an early sequence of events since its corporate culture is not set up correctly, like Apple’s is. This Emperor is buck naked and really who wants this Emperor to succeed at the expense of true innovation, design & delight, and justice for all. They lost the right to be the keeper of technology having consistently fallen asleep at the wheel and being reaction oriented not forward taking action.

  7. I’m a Microsoft refugee. I left Microsoft for the embrace of Apple for a reason. Microsoft sucks at UI design. Windows XP was the apogee of UI usability design. After that Vista, W7, W8 all suck balls. They’re as confusing as hell to use and are a positive deterrent to productivity. When the OS constantly shouts at you for attention, you lose focus on the task you’re working on.

    Windows 8 navigation menuss are all over the place. There’s no way in hell I’m going back to Microsoft again. Multiply me by a million others who have embraced the Apple creed through purchasing the iPad – those are people that Microsoft will lose forever.

    As I don’t see myself going back to MS, I don’t see how you expect an installed base of more than 100 million iPad users reverse course by the time the pathetic W8 tablets are released.

    All I can see are dark days ahead for W8, whether in tablet or desktop form. Microsoft is f***ed for sure. Damn them to hell.

  8. Wow! Proof of two parallel universes in one day! One in which the WIndows Phone beats iPhone, and another in which it takes four days to fix a software problem on an iPad!

    Even if the Windows Phone were better than iPhone (giggle), and even if Apple adds no new features and introduces no new hardware (I need air!), there’s no way for Microsoft to catch up on the apps infrastructure fast enough to pull this off.

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