Windows Phone Inches Past Near-Dead Symbian In U.K. Market Share

Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform seems to be picking up some steam across the pond, or so a new report from Kantar Worldpanel claims. According to their study, Symbian now only accounts for 2.4% of the UK smartphone market while the Windows Phone platform has grown from 0.5% last year to around 2.5%, barely inching ahead of Nokia’s former smartphone OS of choice.

I know, a victory is a victory, but Windows Phone’s triumph has much more to do with how far Symbian has fallen in just a year. As of February 2011, Symbian could be found on 12.4% of smartphones in the UK, with its popularity tanking over the intervening months.

The dip shouldn’t come as much of a surprise — Nokia CEO Stephen Elop infamously referred to their one-time mobile OS of choice as a “burning platform” in an internal communique last year, which highlighted nicely the company’s need to revamp their smartphone efforts.

That said, it’s worth noting that Symbian isn’t dead just yet — Nokia continues to provide support for the newish Symbian Belle OS, and turned heads at this year’s Mobile World Congress with the Symbian-powered PureView 808. And while new purchases of Symbian devices may dwindle, there’s still a huge number of Symbian devices floating around out there.

One could argue that Symbian and its ilk still serve a critical purpose for Nokia, one of Microsoft’s biggest Windows Phone partners — to push and maintain Nokia’s prominence in developing markets where low cost is a critical factor. Nokia has owned up to this ambition, as they’ve mentioned more than a few times they’re going after the “next billion” phone owners with product lines like the colorful Asha series.

But even in those markets, the Android influence is undeniable — market research firm IDG reported last December that Android overtook Symbian to become the most used smartphone OS in India. Android also occupies the top smartphone OS spot in China, thanks to the proliferation of low-cost hardware. Now that Microsoft has successfully inched by a rival in one market, they’ll have to buck up and make the same happen in others if they want to give Android a real run for its money.