By Adam Dickter / Top Tech News. Updated December 17, 2009.
After the release of the iPhone 3GS in June, Apple gained an estimated 2.2 million users nationwide in subsequent months, pushing it past devices using Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system for the first time, comScore reports. The survey of smartphone users ages 13 and up found Windows Mobile was the only OS to decline during the three months ending in October.
iPhone users reached almost nine million in October, comScore said, or a quarter of the 36 million Americans estimated to be using smartphones. That puts the iPhone in second place behind industry leader Research in Motion, the maker of BlackBerrys.
In the survey period, Windows Mobile gained less than half a million users compared to the surge in iPhone users, forfeiting the slight edge of 30,000 units it had in July. BlackBerry users totaled nearly 15 million users and Google's Android platform, with just more than one million users, was third.
Kirk Parsons, a wireless analyst at J.D. Power and Associates, said it was "not surprising" that iPhone usage seems to be booming, given its demonstrated high rate of user satisfaction.
"They do very well in our studies," said Parsons. "From a customer-experience standpoint, [users like] the navigation, the OS design, the features, that kind of stuff. If you look at the Windows OS, they get the lowest score. So from a sales perspective, the trend is probably going to continue because [the iPhone is] clearly leading in the area of ease of use."
But another wireless analyst, Jeff Orr of ABI Research, said the constant development of new devices makes predictions unreliable.
"In emerging technology, things always happen in waves, so there is expansion and contraction," Orr said. "Windows Mobile certainly should be able to compete effectively against Apple, which is the only provider of the iPhone OS, whereas Windows Mobile can come from a wide range of companies, such as Samsung or HTC."
The Global Picture
ABI Research forecasts that in 2009, 49 percent of global smartphone shipments will be Symbian-based, with Windows Mobile and RIM getting 16 percent each. In September, the firm estimated Apple's global share of 2009 shipments at nine percent, with five percent going to mobile Linux devices, excluding Android.
By 2014, Orr said, the only significant shift in global mobile OS share is projected to be a decrease in Symbian, shifting toward mobile Linux and Android.
Looking further ahead, Orr said, the platform that appears to be at greatest risk is Symbian -- primarily on Nokia handsets -- which has not been as strong in the United States as in Western Europe. "The handset company has announced that Symbian deployments will share the spotlight with additional open-source distributions, including Maemo," Orr noted.