Windows Phone Growing Slowly: Will Only Be 4% Of U.S. Smartphone Sales In 2012 Says Strategy Analytics

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Microsoft continues to make a big push with the Windows Phone platform, but figures out today from Strategy Analytics indicate that it’s still barely moving the needle against the Android/iOS juggernaut. In 2012, Microsoft’s Windows Phone will account for only 4.1 percent of the 123 million smartphones that will be sold in the U.S. in the year. That’s a rise, but of less than one percentage point compared to 2011. In terms of actual unit numbers, this works out to 5 million devices sold in 2012, compared to 3.5 million in 2011.

This will not come as good news to Nokia, which has staked a lot of its future — and its ability to crack the U.S. market specifically — on the success of the platform. Nokia is expected to report its earnings tomorrow and people will be looking carefully at how well Windows Phone smartphones are selling compared to devices built on Nokia’s legacy platform Symbian: a sign of too few on the newer platform could be a sign that the new strategy is not sticking.

Nokia has been taking some drastic measures to bump up sales of its flagship Lumia 900 Windows-based smartphone. Just three months after launch, earlier this week it halved the price to $49 from $99 for a two-year contract.

That will at least help Windows Phone stay on track and keep from having an even smaller market share this year: “We consider four percent to be an achievable target. It only needs Nokia to deliver a few hundred thousand extra units to the US this year and the target should be met,” notes Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics.

The news is not particularly good for other handset makers building on Windows Phone, either — the main ones include HTC and Samsung. However, these two have made far greater investments in their Android-based line of devices and that diversification will help offset that.

Strategy Analytics says that its 123 million figure for total smartphones sold in the U.S. is a rise of 21 percent compared to 2011, when 102 million units were sold.

Mawston notes that there may be more opportunity with Windows Phone 8, the next version of the OS, but it’s still lagging behind in terms of what it can support. His to-do list includes the need to support with multi-core chipsets, as well as an improved Marketplace app store and a much wider range of phone models. The last two of these will rely on consumers flocking to the platform — that will bring more manufacturers and more developers — but in case that doesn’t work, he has another suggestion: “consider reducing the license fees it charges per unit to smartphone makers.”