The canary is dead, and Nokia needs to escape the Windows Phone mineshaft now

nokia ces stephen elop microsoft steve balmer
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop shakes hands with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at a Lumia unveiling

How’s this for a statistic: Nokia controls 85 percent of the global Windows Phone market. Its closest competitor is HTC, with 9.8 percent, leaving about 5.2 percent that Huawei, Samsung, and ZTE can divvy up among themselves. These figures come from AdDuplex, which analyzed data from just over 1,000 Windows Phone apps which use the ad promotion network.

Once the initial surprise has worn off, the amount of control Nokia has begins to make sense. After all, the company has been announcing and releasing brand new Windows Phone hardware every few months during 2013, while all other smartphone manufacturers in the world have almost universally ignored it. Although there are other Windows phones available, the total amount of phones offered by its competitors this year probably doesn’t even equal Nokia’s entire range.

Though Windows Phone is showing signs of life, it’s only because Nokia is holding the defibrillators. Indeed, the canary is dead; the hippo is humped; the wizard has spoken … However, you want to say it, Nokia is in trouble. Though it is a stronger company than it was in 2011, Nokia may, again, be standing on a burning platform. Despite owning almost all Windows Phone sales, and making some great phone hardware, Nokia is not even in the top 5 when it comes to smartphone sales.

Nokia is the only company that cares about Windows Phone

It’s also the only one pushing boundaries. Nokia has invested heavily in Microsoft’s OS. The Lumia 920 and subsequently the Lumia 1020 were not only the first top end Windows Phone camera phones, but also two of the best camera phones on the market, regardless of operating system. There are also growing rumors of the first quad-core Windows Phones coming from Nokia, plus the first big-screen phablets and devices with 1080p displays. Nokia wants to be first in all the major categories, and right now it has virtually no competition on WP.

The Lumia 520 is now the world’s most popular Windows Phone.

Then there’s the software, as Nokia produces its own range of Windows Phone apps specifically for its phones, and is just about to unleash Lumia Amber, a Nokia-specific update with various new features to improve all its most recent devices.

Nokia has also covered all the price points, and hasn’t skimped on its lower range model’s spec sheets either, making them popular choices. A glance at another AdDuplex stat reveals 57 percent of Windows Phones in use have 512MB of RAM, indicating cheaper handsets are in more demand than higher-end hardware, and its those which help amass market share.

No-one can accuse Nokia of not embracing Windows Phone, and certainly from the look of AdDuplex’s stats, its dedication is paying off. The Lumia 520 for example (another budget phone), is now the world’s most popular Windows Phone device, and takes 27 percent of the entire market, a full 10 percent ahead of the number two phone, the Lumia 920. Samsung’s Ativ S meanwhile, claims just 2 percent.

Symbian deja vu?

For all practical purposes, Nokia owns Windows Phone. Thus it finds itself in an eerily familiar situation. In 2008, Nokia was responsible for 85 percent (see page 31) of Symbian sales, too. This was just before the OS was starting its free fall in the face of iPhone and Android. At that time, supporters like Samsung and Sony Ericsson also began to jump ship, leaving Symbian to Nokia.

Nokia’s complete control of Windows Phone echoes the situation it once faced with Symbian, an OS it abandoned because customers and manufacturers had moved on. It’s ironic that it finds itself in an almost identical position with its replacement. Nokia would probably argue it’s doing too good a job with Windows Phone and has scared off the competition, but there are a lot of parallels. You could say it has left one OS few people cared about, only to adopt another.

nokia lumia 1020 screens
Nokia’s Lumia 1020 has, arguably, the best camera on any smartphone

It’s worrisome, and analysts and reporters are all sounding the death knell for Nokia and Microsoft’s Windows Phone, particularly in the United States. In a piece titled, “Why Windows Phone is Doomed in America,” a Forbes columnist claims US wireless carriers have no faith in Windows Phone. This comes as Samsung and HTC have all but abandoned the operating system.

Nokia is in competition with itself. For now

As far as Windows Phone is concerned, Nokia is in competition with itself, but does the apathy shown by Samsung, HTC, LG, and other manufacturers mean Nokia is doomed to repeat its own sad history? Perhaps not. Unlike Symbian, Microsoft’s Windows Phone is on the rise. Research from Gartner puts Microsoft’s global market share in Q2 2013 at 3.3 percent, up from 2.6 this time last year. This, as we’ve established, is almost completely due to Nokia. Gartner also states the highest growth in smartphone sales is coming from Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia – not America.

The battle is on for third place in the smartphone market, but few people seem seem willing to leave growing operating systems like iOS or Android to hitch a ride with Nokia and Windows Phone.

HTC’s global spokesperson recently tweeted, in the face of rumors to the contrary, that it was still “absolutely dedicated” to Windows Phone. We’ve also seen rumors of a mid-range Samsung Windows Phone, the SGH-i187, which could be an attempt to pull in some Windows Phone market share. But, like last year, these devices seem to be fewer and farther between from both Samsung and HTC. It’s clear that neither is pinning any hope on a massive Windows Phone revival. They just don’t want to be caught with their pants down.

All very well, but a promise and a prayer may not be enough. Nokia, though, doesn’t have much of a choice. Thanks to a public pact it made with Microsoft and customers, its hands are tied. If it makes an Android device (Why we want a Lumia Google Edition), many would see it as a death knell for Windows Phone, potentially hurting already weak sales of its entire line. So, with nowhere to go, Nokia continues to release new and unique Windows Phone hardware in the hope it can drive the OS to greater success.

Lively hardware competition will help ensure Windows Phone’s – and Nokia’s – survival. If Nokia and Microsoft don’t find a way to encourage more manufacturers, and more people, to hop on and stick with Windows Phone, history may indeed repeat itself.


Rekindled yet again, Nokia’s next-gen phones offer more than just nostalgia

HMD Global, a startup that designs and builds Nokia Android smartphones, wants to put the Nokia brand name back “where it belongs.” It helps that it’s made up of ex-Nokia employees. We go behind the scenes to see how HMD formed.

Rumors say Apple's AirPower wireless charger may finally be in production

At its September event in 2018, Apple unveiled the AirPower, a new wireless charging mat that will allow you to charge multiple devices at one time. It has not yet been released. Here's everything we know about the device so far.

Here's everything we know about the upcoming Nokia 8.1 Plus phone

Nokia will be looking to kick off 2019 will a cracker of a phone, and the Nokia 8.1 Plus could be that phone. From the rumored pinhole display to the Zeiss cameras, here's everything we know about the Nokia 8.1 Plus.

Samsung all but confirms the Galaxy S10 will arrive on Feb. 20, ahead of MWC

Samsung's skipping Mobile World Congress 2019 this year to launch its next big smartphone a week earlier in San Francisco. Considering Samsung teased the "10-year anniversary" of Galaxy devices, we expect to see the Galaxy S10.

If you're looking for a good laugh, here are 70 questions to ask Siri

Siri has come a long way since her first appearance on the iPhone 4S in 2011. We know she can make appointments and give directions, did you know she can make you laugh too? If you want proof, here are lots of funny questions to ask Siri.

Benchmark results show Snapdragon 855 destroys previous-generation chip

Almost exactly a year after the launch of the Snapdragon 845, Qualcomm took the wraps off of its next-generation mobile platform, the new Snapdragon 855. The new chip puts an emphasis on A.I. performance.

AT&T jumps the gun with deliberately misleading 5GE launch

As excitement about 5G networks continues to build, AT&T jumps the gun with a ridiculous and deliberate attempt to deceive the public with 5G Evolution – a speed bump that’s based on improvements to 4G tech.

We tried all the latest and greatest smartphones to find the best of 2019

Smartphones are perhaps the most important and personal piece of tech on the planet. That’s why it’s important to pick the best phone for your individual needs. Here are the best smartphones you can buy.

On a budget? We found the best affordable smartphones you can buy

Here are the best cheap phones for anyone working with a tight budget, whether you're a fan of stock Android or marathon battery life. Find out what you can get for under $500 or far, far less as we round up the best budget smartphones.

Apple’s official iPhone XS battery case is finally here

Apple has been rumored to be working on a new iPhone battery case for the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. Now, those new cases are finally here, offering seven hours of extra use for each iPhone and are available for $129.
Social Media

Twitter extends its new timeline feature to Android users

Twitter users with an Android device can now quickly switch between an algorithm-generated timeline and one that shows the most recent tweets first. The new feature landed for iPhone users last month.

Apple’s iPhone battery offer was reportedly way more popular than expected

As many as 11 million iPhone owners reportedly made use of Apple's cheaper battery replacement offer that launched in 2018 in response to the iPhone throttling debacle — some 10 times more than the company had apparently expected.

Could this be our first look at the design of the 2019 iPhone?

While it's not been long since the last iPhones launched, rumors for the next iPhone are already surfacing. Apple's 2019 flagship could include a variety of upgrades ranging from a new design to enhanced features.

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.