Windows smartphone sales plummeted 76 percent during the second quarter of 2016, as Microsoft’s ill-fated mobile strategy continues to worsen.
As Redmond recovers from the aftermath of its doomed Nokia acquisition, the industry is showing no signs of relenting, with Gartner research reporting the collapsing of Microsoft’s smartphone from 8.2 million in 2015, to just under two million this year.
With the vendor reporting a 2.5 percent share in the smartphone operating system twelve months ago, Windows now powers less than 0.6 percent of global devices, representing a dramatic downturn in fortunes for the tech giant.
Microsoft’s slide down the smartphone rankings comes as global sales of smartphones to end users totalled 344 million units in the second quarter of 2016, a 4.3 percent increase over the same period in 2015.
According to Gartner, overall sales of mobile phones contracted by 0.5 percent with only five vendors from the top 10 showing growth.
Among them were four Chinese manufacturers (Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi and BBK Communication Equipment) and Samsung.
“Demand for premium smartphones slowed in the second quarter of 2016 as consumers wait for new hardware launches in the second half of the year,” Gartner research director, Anshul Gupta, said.
Gupta said the decline in sales of "feature phones" (down 14 percent) bolstered the decline in overall sales of mobile phones in the second quarter of 2016.
“All mature markets except Japan saw slowing demand for smartphones leading to a decline in sales of 4.9 percent,” Gupta added.
In the second quarter of 2016, Samsung had nearly 10 percent more market share than Apple, with sales of its Galaxy A and Galaxy J series smartphones competing strongly with Chinese manufacturers.
According to Gupta, the South Korean vendor’s new smartphone portfolio also helped Samsung win back share it recently lost in emerging markets.
Meanwhile, Apple continued its downward trend with a decline of 7.7 percent in the second quarter of 2016, with sales declining chiefly in North America (its biggest market) as well as in Western Europe.
However, the company also witnessed its worst sales decline in Greater China and mature Asia/Pacific regions, where sales declined 26 percent.
Among the top five smartphone vendors, Oppo exhibited the highest growth in the second quarter of 2016 at 129 percent - this is due to strong sales of its R9 handset in China and overseas.
“Features such as an anti-shake camera optimised for selfies, and rapid charge technology, helped Oppo carve a niche market for itself and boost sales in a highly competitive and commoditised smartphone market,” Gupta added.
In terms of the smartphone operating system (OS) market, Android regained share over iOS to achieve an 86 percent share in the second quarter of 2016.
Android's performance continued to come from demand for mid- to lower-end smartphones from emerging markets, but also from premium smartphones, which recorded a 6.5 percent increase in the second quarter of 2016.
A number of key Android players, such as Samsung with the Galaxy S7, introduced their new high-end devices, but Chinese brands like Huawei and Oppo are also pushing their premium smartphone ranges with more affordable devices.
“Google is evolving the Android platform fast, which allows Android players to remain at the cutting edge of smartphone technology,” Gartner research director, Roberta Cozza, added.
“Facing a highly commoditised smartphone market, Google's focus is to further expand and diversify the Android platform with additional functionalities, like virtual reality, enabling more-intelligent experiences and reach into wearables, connected home devices, in-car entertainment and TV.”