Smartphone wars: Who's winning where

Android dominates the globe and BlackBerry loses everywhere, as iPhone and Windows Phone battle for second place

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It's hard to believe we're eight years into the mobile revolution that the iPhone wrought. But we are. That revolution has played out differently throughout the world, however.

In the United States, we've seen the iPhone destroy the BlackBerry and block newcomers like Windows Phone -- but starting in 2009 it lost its top billing to Android (outside the enterprise space, anyhow). Android dominates most nations to varying degrees, and BlackBerry has all but faded away globally.

But in between, the world is all over the map: The iPhone dominates second place in some countries, Windows Phone dominates in other countries, and the two are essentially tied in still others.

Kantar Worldpanel tracks the sales of smartphones in a dozen key countries, and its data paint a compelling picture of smartphone trends over time throughout the world. The research firm has a neat interactive chart where you can see comparative sales data for each of a dozen countries for the past three years.

Harder to discern in that per-country data is the overall trend for each of the four major smartphone platforms (Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry), so I've created charts below showing the overall trends for each platform using data for 10 key countries. (Kantar's tool also shows data for Australia and Spain, which I omitted for clarity.) They're all at the same scale, so you can compare them globally if you'd like.

Here are the key takeaways from the charts below:

  • Android's domination varies dramatically by country, but the general trend is the poorer the country, the greater the Android market share. Android smartphones come in an amazing range of prices, commensurate with their capabilities, so there's an Android model for nearly every income level.
  • The iPhone has been a close second to Android in the United States and United Kingdom; iPhone sales edged past Android sales in the last months of 2014 in the United States. Japanese buyers oscillate between preferring Android and iPhone, whereas American and British buyers have been steadily moving back to iPhone. But the iPhone is nowhere in Mexico or Argentina, underselling even the BlackBerry.
  • In much of the rest of the world, the iPhone's high price has created an opening for Windows Phone, which is available for a range of prices, to become the second platform of choice. Windows Phone is not a close second to Android anywhere, but it's cementing its staying power.
  • BlackBerry has faded through much of the world, and it's fading fast in its few remaining strongholds such as Mexico and Argentina. There's no country in Kantar's surveys where BlackBerry's trend is up. The Kantar data skews to consumer usage, but BlackBerry's slide is also occurring in its enterprise stronghold, with the global number of BlackBerry subscribers (that is, with active carrier accounts) down from 80 million in December 2012 to 46 million in June 2014. BlackBerry's fate is clearly dismal.
Android smartphone sales Jan 2013-Dec 2014

Android is the dominant smartphone operating system across the world. (Source: Kantar Worldpanel)

iPhone sales Jan 2013-Dec 2014

iPhone sales do quite well in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan, but are not huge in other key markets. (Source: Kantar Worldpanel)

Windows Phone sales Jan 2013-Dec 2014

Windows Phone is no hit, but it does moderately well -- often better than iPhone -- in poorer nations. (Source: Kantar Worldpanel)

BlackBerry sales Jan 2013-Dec 2014

BlackBerry sales are declining in all key markets. (Source: Kantar Worldpanel)

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