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The new BlackBerry 10 smartphone. (NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The new BlackBerry 10 smartphone. (NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

BlackBerry falls to 4th place in global smartphone race Add to ...

BlackBerry Ltd., which once controlled the smartphone market, now finds itself knocked back to fourth place.

The latest report on worldwide smartphone market share shows the Waterloo-based company slipping behind the Windows Phone brand – Microsoft Corp.’s line of mobile devices.

New numbers from International Data Corporation suggest BlackBerry sold 6.8 million handsets in the second quarter of 2013, good for just 2.9 per cent of the market. In the same quarter last year, BlackBerry sold 7.7-million handsets and controlled 4.9-per cent of the market.

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These declines saw BlackBerry “reaching levels not seen in the history of IDC’s Mobile Phone Tracker,” the IDC report said. Worryingly, the 2013 data captures early sales from the launch of BlackBerry’s new operating system and two of its three new devices – the high-end Z10 and Q10 phones, which were intended to re-energize the company’s core customer base and give it a foothold in the profitable, high-end consumer market.

As BlackBerry market share slumped, Windows Phone sales saw the greatest year-over-year growth, jumping 77 per cent to 8.7-million units sold in 2013 from 4.9-million in 2012. That growth was driven primarily by Nokia’s Lumia line of smartphones, which now accounts for more than 80 per cent of all Windows Phone sales.

“Last quarter we witnessed Windows Phone shipments surpassing BlackBerry and the trend has continued into the second quarter,” wrote Ryan Reith, program manager with IDC’s Mobility Tracker Programs.

Even before IDC’s latest report, some observers questioned how many profitable players the smartphone market is likely to have. Currently, phones powered by Google Inc.’s Android operating system make up the largest single portion of the market, with almost 80 per cent, followed by Apple Inc.’s iPhone at 13.2 per cent, according to IDC.

However recent surveys show that only Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., the largest manufacturer of Android phones, and Apple make any money from selling their devices. Almost every other major player in the industry – including BlackBerry – is either breaking even or losing money, according to a recent survey by Canaccord Genuity.

There was more troubling news in a separate report on the U.S. market, an area BlackBerry (previously known as Research In Motion Ltd.) must remain competitive in if it hopes to climb back to smartphone leadership.

According to comScore, BlackBerry lost 15 per cent of its U.S. subscribers between March and June, falling to 4.4 per cent of the market from 5.2 per cent. Windows Phone remains in fourth place in the U.S., with 3.1 per cent of the market.

Devices built on Google’s mobile operating system continue to build a lead over all other platforms. Android phones – made by segment-leader Samsung, as well as LG, HTC and newer Chinese entrants such as Huawei, Lenovo and ZTE – saw shipments of 187 million in the quarter, growing 73.5 per cent from the same period last year.

Growth by Android and Windows also pushed down Apple’s share of the operating system pie, in part reflecting the long period since the last update to its iPhone. While Apple shipped 31.2 million units, its share of the market fell from 16.6 per cent to 13.2 per cent.

IDC’s report predicted a rebound ahead for Apple as it firms up new carrier relationships in China and prepares new products for release this fall.

Across all platforms combined, smartphone sales in the second quarter of 2013 rose 51.3 per cent from the same period last year. In all, more than 236 million handsets were shipped, up 9 per cent from the first quarter.

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