In its first two months, Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 gained a 2% share of the U.S. smartphone market, says research firm The NPD Group. During that period, the last quarter of 2010, Google Android increased its share by 9 points, to become the dominant smartphone platform.
The Windows Phone 7 share at the time of the survey was even less than the declining 4% share for Microsoft's older Windows Mobile firmware. The initial launch of the radically redesigned OS also captured less share than either Android or Palm's webOS in their debuts.
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The numbers are from the Q4 2010 survey by The NPD Group's Mobile Phone Track, which surveys U.S. consumers, aged 18 and older, who reported buying a mobile phone. In the Q4 survey, for the first time, the five top-selling phones were all smartphones, instead of the less capable, voice-oriented feature phones.
NPD's numbers are congruent with those from a not-yet-released consumer survey by ChangeWave, which in December, looked at a different measure: consumer buying plans. Just over 4,000 consumers were asked, "What mobile OS would you prefer to have on the smartphone you plan on buying?" (You can see a chart of the results here; for full details see "Desire for Windows Phone 7 remains low despite Microsoft sales claims").
Apple iOS and Google Android were almost tied for most popular at 36% and 35% respectively; with RIM BlackBerry OS a distant third at 4%. All three had declined by 1 or 2 points since the previous survey in September 2010.
Windows Phone 7, though picked by just 5% in December, was the only OS to show growth in terms of consumer preference: Its share was just 1% in the earlier survey.
The first Windows Phone 7 models went on sale at AT&T and T-mobile on Nov. 7, so the consumer market share covers about 7 weeks. During that quarter, Android's share rose 9 points over the previous quarter to 53%, making it the dominant mobile OS in the U.S.
According to NPD, Apple iOS share dropped 4 points to 19% of unit sales in the quarter; RIM's BlackBerry OS fell 2 points, to tie with Apple at 19%; Windows Mobile continued its decline, by 3 points, to 4% of the U.S. consumer smartphone market.
In a statement, Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis for NPD, says "Microsoft has made the case for Windows Phone 7's differentiation and improved integration." Microsoft next has several critical steps to take, according to Rubin: "Close the feature gap, offer more exclusive capabilities, work with partners to deliver hardware with better differentiation, and leverage its extensive experience in driving developer communities to increase its app offerings."
ChangeWave's survey finds much stronger customer satisfaction with Windows Phone 7 vs. Microsoft's older mobile OS technology: 44% of Windows Phone 7 users reported they were "very satisfied" with their phone OS compared to 18% of Windows Mobile users. By contrast, 58% of Android phone users and 72% of iPhone users reported being very satisfied.
The top five mobile phones in the U.S. for Q4 were split between iOS and Android, according to NPD:
1. Apple iPhone 4
2. Motorola Droid X
3. HTC EVO 4G
4. Apple iPhone 3GS
5. Motorola Droid 2
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for "Network World."
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