Remember those crazy days in 2011 and 12 when we thought that the mobile market might become a three-horse race between Android, iOS, and Windows Mobile, with Blackberry bringing up the rear? Well, I have bad if unsurprising news: by the end of last year, 99.6 percent of all new smartphones ran either Android or iOS—a return to the status quo thatfirst wrote about way back in 2009.
According to the latest figures from Gartner, both Android and iOS expanded their share of the market in 2016, while sales of Windows and Blackberry continued their free fall to the base of the cliff. Gartner, a research company that derives its figures from a range of sources, says that just 1.1 million Windows smartphones were sold in Q4 2016, down from 4.4 million in Q4 2015. Similarly, Blackberry device sales fell from 906,000 to 208,000.
The action at the top of the sales table, between Apple and Samsung, was a little more exciting. For the first time since Q4 2014 Apple has apparently retaken pole position from Samsung, with 77 million iPhones shifted last quarter versus 76.8 million units for the Korean chaebol. Samsung still shipped the most smartphones over the course of 2016, but its share of the market decreased from 22.5 percent to 20.5.
The largest percentage gains were achieved by Huawei, Oppo BBK, which have been pushing their surprisingly-good-but-cheaper-than-flagship phones into other countries outside their Chinese homeland. Huawei, according to Gartner, sold 28 million more phones this year than last; Oppo went from 40 million in 2015 to 85 million in 2016. Overall, the smartphone market in 2016 was up five percent from 2015, from 1.42 billion devices sold to 1.5 billion.
As always, though, you should take second-hand analyst figures with a pinch of salt. Back in 2013, when the Windows Mobile dream was still alive, Gartner predicted that 570 million Windows devices (desktop and mobile) would be sold in 2017, compared to 504 million iOS/Mac devices, and 1.47 billion Android devices.
To put that 570 million figure into context, about 350 million Windows PCs were sold in 2012, and the PC market had already begun its swan dive by that point. So, Gartner was expecting Microsoft to shift upwards of 200 million Windows phones per year—or about the same number of iPhones that Apple sold last year. No one ever said that predicting future tech trends was easy, though.
Listing image by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images