Windows Phone smartphones are slowly gaining customer acceptance, with sales of 7.4 million globally in the second quarter, up from 4 million for the same quarter last year, according to Gartner in numbers released Wednesday.
That Windows Phone increase from a scant 2.3% market share last year to 3.3% in the second quarter is partly due to acceptance of its mobile operating system by more wireless carriers and manufacturers. Gartner said Windows Phone, which ranks third behind Android and iOS, took that position for the first time from BlackBerry, now in fourth place with a 2.7% market share.
One prime example of carrier and maker adoption of Windows Phone 8 is the new ATIV S Neo. Built by Samsung and running Windows Phone 8, the Neo will go on sale at Sprint starting Friday for $149.99 with a two-year contract and rebate. It is the second Windows Phone 8 Sprint has sold, after the HTC 8XT, which went on sale in July for $99.99 with a rebate and two-year agreement.
Nokia makes 80% of the world's Windows Phone 8 devices, and AT&T exclusively recently put the Nokia Lumia 1020 with a 41-megapixel camera on sale for $299.99 and a two-year agreement.
While carriers don't promote phones that won't sell, they also want more choices in operating systems to offer customers so they can bargain more easily with Apple and Android makers for lower smartphone subsidy prices, analysts said.
Sprint has tied the marketing of its two Windows Phone 8 smartphone launches to its unlimited service plans and growing LTE wireless network, which had reached 151 cities as of July 30.
Meanwhile, AT&T on Wednesday said its LTE network had reached 365 cities with the recent addition of six more cities. Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile also have LTE networks but Verizon got the earliest start and has the broadest LTE service, reporting 500 cities by the end of June.
Analysts also said it is hard to say what feature is the best selling point for a smartphone since many smartphones offer similar features. All the major carriers have rolled out LTE service to some extent that complements LTE in phones, including the ATIV S Neo.
At Sprint, executives have focused on Windows Phone 8 as a selling point even though the Windows Phone Store has been criticized for providing far fewer apps at 160,000 than either Android or iOS. "Without a doubt, [ the HTC 8XT and ATIV S Neo] will rival any smartphone on the market today," said Fared Adib, senior vice president of product development at Sprint in a June 26 statement.
Also in June, Samsung said its ATIV S Neo was a testament to Samsung's desire to offer smartphones across a variety of platforms.
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