iPhone again shows surprising market share growth in February

Smartphone Market Share February 2013

StatCounter’s February tracking results indicate that the iPhone’s global mobile OS market share continued the surprising growth it showed also in January. StatCounter’s trend data reflected disappointingly soft iOS market share in November and December, which dovetailed well with the softer than expected iPhone sales volume Apple (AAPL) reported for the Christmas quarter. But over the past two months, Apple’s mobile market share climbed from December’s 23.3% share to 27.2% in February. This sharp bounce seems to have stopped Android’s strong market share gains, which extended from May to January. Between January and February, the Android OS share stalled at 36.9%.

Is it possible that the iPhone has picked up new momentum after the Christmas quarter, when Apple posted disappointing 29% annualized volume growth? One key factor here seems to be Asia, where the handset’s share has suddenly jumped from 7.8% to 10.4% over the past two months.

This is interesting, because Apple recently focused on strong marketing pushes in South-East Asia. In India, the iPhone can now be purchased via attractive new monthly payment plans. Could it be that Apple now has new momentum in Asia — perhaps at the expense of HTC (2498) and LG (066570), which have faded badly in their core market?

The StatCounter numbers also reflect a worrisome Asian slump for Nokia’s (NOK) S40 software platform, which underpins the budget Asha phone range. StatCounter’s data seems to reflect the Asha family fortunes in Asia — market share peaked in September coinciding with the new product ramp-ups followed by slow, but accelerating decline over the winter as the low-end competition heated up. Nokia’s quarterly reports that were published after the StatCounter data came out seem to fit this trend. Is it possible that the S40 market share slump in January and February is now auguring Nokia’s Asian feature phone softness during the first quarter this year?

There is also food for thought for BlackBerry (BBRY) in February’s trend lines. BlackBerry’s OS share decline in Europe has accelerated notably over the past two months, which would fit the theory of the previous generation of BlackBerry devices facing steep sales erosion as the new Z10 debuts. Investors are now focusing on how well the new Z10 model sold, with most estimates ranging from 300,000 to 800,000 units. But the question of how rapidly the aging budget Curve series is losing traction is fairly important for BlackBerry’s profitability over the next couple of quarters.

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