**Editor's Note: Click here for our most recent list of hot selling smartphones to see how the Windows Phones fared against the competition.**
Is Windows Phone the next Android? Not quite, but it could make strides in that direction in just a few years.
It took devices running on Google's operating system about three years after its debut to begin outselling Apple's iPhone, which runs on the Silicon Valley giant's iOS. A new report released this week says Microsoft's Windows Phone, while not a juggernaut just yet, will nearly catch the iPhone four years from now.
Researchers at Canalys say that overall, 1.5 billion smartphones will be shipped in 2017, accounting for nearly three out of very four mobile-phone shipments. In North America and Western Europe, the report predicts, virtually all phones shipped will be smartphones.
"The price of smartphones has fallen dramatically over the last few years and this has helped increase penetration,’ said Chris Jones, Canalys principal analyst. "But, so far, the problem with low-cost smartphones has been that the user experience has been compromised to hit lower price points. This is why Nokia has been so successful with its Asha portfolio. These handsets have been purpose-built and provide a great “pseudo-smart phone" experience. But the situation will change over the next few years. As component prices continue to fall, vendors will be able to deliver great experiences on smartphones at low price points, which means that in many markets, feature phones will become extinct."
Nokia, which thanks to a partnership with Microsoft could once again be a force to be reckoned with in the future, is the biggest seller of Windows Phones – notably its Lumia series – an operating system that Canalys expects will grow market share from 2.4 percent in 2012 to 12.7 percent in 2017. The platform will nip at the heels of Apple's iOS, whose shipments will represent 14.1 percent of the market four years from now, the study says. That will be down from 19.5 percent in 2012.
Both iOS and Windows Phone will be far behind Android, Canalys forecasts. While Android's share is expected to drop slightly, it will still command more than two-thirds of the market (67.1 percent).
The outlook for BlackBerry, which was the third-place vendor and falling in 2012, is positive, according to the study. Even though its market share is expected to decline slightly between 2012 and 2017 – from 4.8 percent to 4.6 percent – shipments could more than double. For that to happen, Canalys says BlackBerry needs more devices based on its new platform, BlackBerry 10, at a variety of prices. And most importantly, the Canada-based manufacturer has to reverse its fortunes in the U.S. and increase its presence in China. With incredible competition, how that will be done – particularly in the U.S. – remains a difficult question.
IDC predicted last month that Android tablet shipments will overtake Apple's iPad by the end of the year.
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