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Windows already threatening iPhone in Southern Europe

Published Dec 21st, 2012 1:31PM EST
Windows Phone Growth

Kantar Worldpanel’s report for November came out and much has been made of the iPhone market share surge in the United States. What I find interesting in the November numbers is just how ice cold the iPhone has gone in so many international markets, from Australia to Brazil to Southern Europe. The iOS market share showed hefty declines outside in many major markets: down 5.4 percentage points in Australia to 35.9% and down 1.6 points in Brazil to 1.6%. That’s right — the iPhone market share has halved in the most important South American market over the past year. And this happened while BlackBerry and Symbian market shares absolutely caved in. This should have been the period for Apple (AAPL) to pick up points while RIM (RIMM) and Nokia (NOK) floundered. Instead, the sky-high pricing of the iPhone models has effectively started reversing Apple’s market share gains across several major markets.

In November, the burden of the stiff iPhone pricing was highlighted by how rapidly Windows has started closing the market share gap in Spain, Italy and France. Because Nokia has had trouble ramping up the production of the new Lumia 920 and 820 Windows models, it chose to crank out older Windows models like 800 and 610 for remarkably aggressive Christmas promotions. As European markets are now hitting 50% smartphone market penetration, consumer demand is shifting towards cheap models, and Apple cannot compete in the budget category. The new first-time smartphone buyers have a lot lower household income than the consumers who bought smartphones in 2010. In the recession-ravaged Europe, the upgrade cycle is lengthening and prepaid smartphones are a more important part of the overall product mix.

As a result, Windows market share in Italy hit a stunning 11.8% in November despite the razor thin availability of the Lumia 920. Windows has already erased most of the market share lead iPhone had in Italy. The iOS market share slipped to 20.6% during the last month. In Spain, Windows market share vaulted to 3% from 0.4% a year earlier while iOS share faded to 4.4%. As the affordable HTC (2498) 8S ramps up and the even cheaper Lumia 620 launches at the end of January, Windows may overtake iPhone in Spain already in February.

The strong performance Apple had in France and the United Kingdom kept its overall European market share climbing by 2.5 percentage points in November. But in Southern Europe, Latin America and parts of Asia, iPhone is slipping badly due to the lack of a low-end version. This is what is driving the Google (GOOG) Play revenue surge globally as Android apps now narrow the huge lead Apple built in the app market before the year 2012. Apple may well have to reconsider its iPhone pricing strategy in a fundamental way. Maintaining $620 ASP level globally could lead to a scenario where Android has 10-to-1 volume lead outside the United States and Northern Europe, and Windows actually has a shot at pulling well ahead of Apple in lower income countries from Spain to Brazil to South-East Asia.

After launching mobile game company SpringToys tragically early in 2000, Tero Kuittinen spent eight years doing equity research at firms including Alliance Capital and Opstock. He is currently an analyst and VP of North American sales at mobile diagnostics and expense management Alekstra, and has contributed to, Forbes and Business 2.0 Magazine in addition to BGR.