Global smartphone sales grew 3.9 percent during the first quarter of the year, but things weren't so great for one vendor: Microsoft.
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According to new figures from Gartner, Redmond's Windows Phone platform — already struggling a year ago with a modest 2.5 percent share of the smartphone OS market — fell below 1 percent during the first quarter.
The news comes after Microsoft last week announced plans to sell its feature phone business to a subsidiary of Foxconn and a newly formed Finnish firm for $350 million. That firm, HMD, will "create Nokia-branded mobile phones and tablets for the next ten years."
Meanwhile, overall global smartphone sales totaled 349 million units in the first quarter, up from 336 million a year earlier. That growth was driven by demand for low-cost smartphones in emerging markets and affordable 4G smartphones, Gartner said.
"In a slowing smartphone market where large vendors are experiencing growth saturation, emerging brands are disrupting existing brands' long-standing business models," Gartner Research Director Anshul Gupta said in a statement. Now, he added, "Chinese brands are emerging as the new top global brands."
Case in point: a year ago, two Chinese brands — Xiaomi and Huawei — ranked within the top five worldwide smartphone vendors, representing 11 percent of the market. In the first quarter of 2016, Oppo also made the list, and together these three Chinese brands nabbed 17 percent.
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Breaking it down by vendor, Samsung came in first with 23.2 percent market share, followed by Apple with 14.8 percent, Huawei with 8.3 percent, Oppo with 4.6 percent, and Xiaomi with 4.3 percent. Lenovo disappeared from the top five. Despite landing at No. 2, Apple had a rough quarter, logging its first double-digit year-on-year decline, with iPhone sales down 14 percent.
As for individual smartphone operating systems, Android regained share over iOS and Windows to reach 84 percent of the market. Apple's iOS came in second with 14.8 percent, followed by Windows at 0.7 percent and BlackBerry with 0.2 percent. All other smartphone operating systems accounted for just 0.2 percent of the market.
"As mature smartphone markets are reaching saturation, Google is pursuing new revenue growth opportunities by expanding the reach of its platforms in cars, wearables, connected homes, immersive experiences, and more," Gartner Research Director Roberta Cozza said in a statement.
But Android is not without its challenges.
"Despite the Android platform's advancements and its dominant market share, the challenges of profitability remain for a number of Android players," Cozza said. "This will have an impact on the vendor landscape where new or more innovative business models will increasingly become key to succeed."