Nokia quickly tops Windows Phone sales, but is it ready to battle Android and iOS?

Nokia Lumia 900 announcement with Stephen Elop CES 2012

Nokia is seeing some good initial success from its transition to exclusively supporting Windows Phone for its high-end handsets. Initial sales of the Lumia 800 and Lumia 710, Nokia’s first two Windows Phones, are likely hovering around 1.3 million units, according to Bloomberg. This is, of course, unverified data, but for two handsets that only launched in November, that’s not bad. Add in the fact that Windows Phone is not a well known or sought-after OS yet and the fact that Nokia only just launched its first device in the US a week or two ago, and the numbers are all the more impressive.

“There weren’t a lot of the hero handsets out there — HTC were struggling, RIM didn’t have a show-me device, Sony Ericsson and Motorola weren’t really stepping into the mix, so there was probably enough space for Nokia to be able to point to fourth- quarter numbers they were happy with,” said Lee Simpson, a London-based analyst at Jefferies International.

Lending credence to the 1.3 million sales estimate, WMPowerUser has made a chart showing that in just two months Nokia has risen to commanding a 45 percent market share of all “second generation” Windows Phones, beating out HTC with a 40 percent share and Samsung with a 12 percent share. 

This is an odd comparison, as it leaves out any “first generation” Windows Phone devices (phones that came out between Nov. 2010 and Oct. 2011) that may have still been selling. Second generation devices include the Nokia Lumia 800, Nokia Lumia 710, HTC Radar, HTC Titan, Samsung Focus Flash, Samsung  Focus S, and a few models by ZTE, Fujitsu Toshiba, and Acer that haven’t made it to the United States yet. 

From the looks of it, HTC continues to play a big role in the Windows Phone ecosystem, but Nokia has really begun pushing on Samsung’s sales. The world’s second largest phone maker dropped from 28 percent to 12 percent in new Windows Phone handset sales (second generation). Samsung’s higher-end Focus S doesn’t seem to have taken off and the company lacked a high-end device outside of the US. HTC has done well with its Radar, however. The Radar has seen better success than almost any Windows Phone here in the US. The device was the third best selling handset on T-Mobile in both November and December, according to numbers by Canaccord, an analyst and forecasting company (via BGR).

Still, if these percentages are accurate and Nokia’s 45 percent market share of newer WP7 devices equates to 4 percent of total Windows Phone sales to date, it’s not hard to extrapolate a guess on how many Windows Phones have been sold. If 1.3 million units equals 4 percent of sales, then multiplying it by 25 would get us to 100 percent, or 32.5 million devices sold since Nov. 2010. This number doesn’t seem nearly as horrible as Microsoft’s diminishing 2-3 percent marketshare would seemingly imply, but three days ago Google announced that there are 250 million Android devices in use. Apple, for its part, sells 20-30 million iPhones every quarter (three months). In fact, on Christmas day alone, Flurry analytics reported that 6.8 Android and iOS (iPhone, iPad) devices were activated. It’s clear that Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do, even with Nokia by its side.

Nokia Lumia 900 - CES 2012

At the Consumer Electronics Show earlier in January, we got a peak at Nokia’s Lumia 900 (our impressions), a 4.3-inch Windows Phone built for the US market. Though it didn’t blow us away with a new interface, Nokia seems to be the only major Windows Phone maker that is actively working to create unique Windows Phone experiences, including unique apps like free turn-by-turn navigation and music streaming. The Lumia 900 even has 4G LTE support, something that Windows Phone has needed for several months now. Most of all, Nokia is the only manufacturer that seems willing to spend money to advertise and market its Windows Phone devices. HTC and Samsung have been supporting the platform, but their devices have felt second-rate compared to their efforts on Android. 

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, has repeatedly stated that Nokia’s Lumia devices are the “first real Windows Phones,” a jab at HTC and Samsung, who mostly support Android.

“There’s a lot hedging going on in the industry, that’s for sure. And this is why I say rather boldly these are the first real Windows Phones,” said Elop in a recent interview. “Our best innovation, our best industrial design, our best cameras, our best software, whatever it is, is being focused on the Windows Phone platform. Unambiguously. We’re not doing a little bit of everything. This is what we’re doing.”

Elop has been brutally honest about Nokia’s near nonexistent presence in the US market and has been extremely bold about reorganizing Nokia around Windows Phone, and phasing out Symbian, the smartphone OS that helped the company become the top phone maker in the world with more than 400 million devices sold per year (Samsung recently surpassed 300 million, becoming the #2 player). As Android and the iPhone took over the market, however, Symbian and other older operating systems like BlackBerry have fallen out of favor with consumers. 

Since it’s first Windows Phone launches in November, Nokia hasn’t wasted any time rebuilding its empire. The Lumia 710 is already available on T-Mobile and the Lumia 900 will launch on AT&T in the next month or two. New handsets are expected to be announced at the Mobile World Congress trade show at the end of February. 

At CES, Elop compared the fight ahead to trench warfare, colorfully comparing the first Lumia handsets as a “beachhead,” or secure initial positions that has been gained and can beused for further advancement, in the war ahead. His enemies: Android and iOS. If Nokia really has sold 1.3 million Windows Phones on its first go round, his metaphor may be apt. If the smartphone market is a warzone, Nokia may actually be moving into a good position. It won’t outsell Android anytime soon, but the tide may be turning for the struggling Finnish manufacturer. 

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