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Windows Phone overtakes Apple's market share ... in India

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Windows Phone has confounded the sceptics by beating iOS for the third consecutive quarter to take second place in the Indian smartphone market, but analysts have warned handset branding will be key to its future growth there in the wake of Microsoft’s Nokia buyout.

Redmond was quick to issue a release online this week, touting IDC Asia Pacific Mobile Phone Tracker stats for Q2 which showed its market share up to 5.4 per cent, placing it second behind Android and ahead of iOS and BlackBerry in one of the world’s fastest growing markets.

It had the following canned quote from Vineet Durani, director of Windows Phone at Microsoft India:

Less than ten months back, when we launched Windows Phone 8 in India, we had set ourselves the goal of being the second most widely used smartphone platform in India, and we are excited to have achieved this milestone so quickly. We have a great device line up, as well as an amazing app experience delivered through the Windows Phone Store.

IDC analyst Kiranjeet Kaur told El Reg that Windows Phone 8 had increased its share from around three per cent a year ago, largely thanks to a “conscious effort” on behalf of Nokia to go after the lower price segment with its Lumia 520 – which retails for about Rs.10,000 (£100).

With India overtaking Japan as the world’s third largest smartphone market earlier this year, these small percentages translate into not insignificant volume sales, she added.

Windows Phone shipments grew from 100,000 to 500,000 units over the past year.

“The Lumia 520 is a very good phone because it can be affordable – not for people who want very cheap phones but somewhere in the lower mid-range,” she said. “It has also been helped by the Nokia brand, which is quite strong in India, with good distribution.”

Nokia was named winner of India’s annual Brand Trust Report in February for the third year in a row and has a long history in the sub-continent, but Microsoft will have to cope without the name once its acquisition of the Finnish giant’s device business goes through.

“We will have to see how Microsoft makes the transition to just ‘Microsoft Lumia’. Brand will play a very big part,” said Kaur.

“People bought the Lumia because of its associations with Nokia but if the deal goes through in the next few months I’m not sure how quickly Microsoft can rebrand and get the message down to consumers.”

Windows Phone also faces fierce competition from Android, which has over 90 per cent of the market thanks in part to the likes of Samsung and HTC handsets at the high end but mainly to the success of domestic players like Karbonn and Micromax targeting the sub-$100 space.

As IDC revealed to The Reg earlier this month, India is the second largest consumer of Lumia handsets globally and it, along with China and other southeast Asian markets, will be key to Microsoft’s smartphone success going forward. ®

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