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Android in FOUR out of 5 new smartphones. How d'ya like dem Apples?

'Amazing' growth in Windows Phone, don't ask about BlackBerry

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The latest numbers from analyst house IDC on global smartphone sales during the third quarter of the year make good reading for Google and Microsoft – but it appears that Blackberry is dead in the water.

Of the 211.6 million smartmobes sold in the quarter, Android took 81 per cent of the market, ahead of Apple at 12.1 per cent. Windows Phone handsets saw sales grow 156 per cent, although that still only leaves it with 3.6 per cent of the market. Yet Microsoft's mobile OS is well ahead of Blackberry, which is lingering at 1.7 per cent as the crashing Canadian manufacturer saw sales fall 41.6 per cent; that's BlackBerry's worst performance since IDC started tracking smartphone sales.

"Android and Windows Phone continued to make significant strides in the third quarter. Despite their differences in market share, they both have one important factor behind their success: price," said Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's mobile team.

"Both platforms have a selection of devices available at prices low enough to be affordable to the mass market, and it is the mass market that is driving the entire market forward."

It's a double whammy of good news for Microsoft. Not only does Redmond's mobile OS look to be beating Blackberry for third place in the market, but Microsoft also makes significant income from its patent toll on Android, which by some estimates is earning it more than a billion a year in royalty payments.

Apple had a less than stellar start to the quarter, but its shiny new iPhones should rectify that, according to IDC's data. Sales were flaccid in the first months of the quarter but rebounded strongly after Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced the 5S and 5C models, and sales ended up growing 25.6 per cent year on year.

But one area that may cause Cupertino some concern is the so-called phablet market – smartphones with six or seven-inch screens – where Apple has no presence. Sales of these big-display phones grew from three per cent of the market a year ago to 23 per cent in the last quarter, and sold at a much better average selling price (ASP) than their smaller cousins.

"Almost all successful Android vendors have added one or more 5-7-inch phablets to their product portfolios," said Ryan Reith, program director with IDC's quarterly mobile phone tracker. "And Nokia’s recent announcement of the Lumia 1320 and 1520 put them in the category as well. We believe the absence of a large-screen device may have contributed to Apple's inability to grow share in the third quarter."

Those juicy profit margins for phablets are, however, not going to last according to IDC's data. The ASP for phablets fell by nearly a quarter compared to this time last year, nearly double the ASP drop on smaller smartphones.

Overall smartphone sales are still strong. IDC estimates sales of smarter handsets were up 39.9 per cent on the quarter compared to this time last year, and the sector is now firmly in the majority over dumber feature phones. ®

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