The NPD Group: For Once-Strong Smartphone Makers, 2011 Was The Year of New Beginnings

As Android and Apple continue to dominate the U.S. smartphone market, RIM and other smartphone manufacturers have made moves to reclaim lost market share.

PORT WASHINGTON, NEW YORK, December 13, 2011 – According to The NPD Group, a leading market research company, Android’s operating system (OS) share of smartphone sales grew to command more than half of the U.S. smartphone market (53 percent) from January through October 2011, as Apple’s iOS share grew to reach 29 percent of the market, and RIM’s OS share declined to 11 percent. RIM and other companies that were formerly on top of NPD’s smartphone rankings, however, have made critical business decisions this past year in a quest to shore up their U.S. smartphone businesses.

“The competitive landscape for smartphones, which has been reshaped by Apple and Google, has ultimately forced every major handset provider through a major transition,” said Ross Rubin, executive director, Connected Intelligence for The NPD Group. “For many of them, 2012 will be a critical year in assessing how effective their responses have been.”

Google acquires Motorola

Motorola’s share of smartphone sales once reached more than a third of the smartphone market (36 percent) in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2006; however, the company’s smartphone market share dropped as low as 1 percent by Q3 2009. After adopting Android, Motorola’s share of smartphone sales rose to 16 percent of the market in Q4 2010 before settling back down to 12 percent by Q3 2011. “Android has helped Motorola climb back into the smartphone market; now, though, Google will seek to use Motorola’s patent pool to help protect other Android licensees,” according to Rubin.

The fall of RIM

“Few companies have felt the impact of the shift to touch user interfaces and larger screen sizes as negatively as RIM, but the company is beginning anew with a strong technical foundation and many paths to the platform,” said Rubin. Back in Q2 2006, RIM comprised half of all smartphone sales; however, by Q3 2011 the company had fallen to 8 percent. As it prepares to introduce smartphones on its next-generation platform, RIM has already made some important incremental improvements this year with the release of the BlackBerry 7 operating system. RIM is now is ranked fifth among smartphone OEMs, behind Apple, HTC, Samsung, and Motorola.

Nokia does Windows

One of the biggest news stories of the year was Nokia’s agreement with Microsoft to use the Windows Phone operating system on its smartphones. “Nokia and Microsoft must build from almost nothing to carve out success between the consistency of the iPhone and the flexibility of Android,” according to Rubin. Even though Microsoft’s former smartphone operating system, Windows Mobile, peaked at 50 percent of smartphone sales in Q2 2007, Windows Phone 7 by comparison has not achieved more than 2 percent of smartphone sales since launching in Q4 of 2010.

Information this press release is from “Mobile Phone Track” and “Smartphone Track,” both of which report on the activities of U.S. consumers, age 18 and older, who reported purchasing a mobile phone or smartphone. NPD does not track corporate/enterprise mobile phone purchases.


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