Gains made by Google's Android platform chipped away at the smartphone market share of Apple's iOS in the first quarter of 2013, while Microsoft's slow-growing Windows Phone managed to surpass BlackBerry in the battle for third place.
The latest market data released on Thursday by IDC shows that Apple's iOS accounted for 17.3 percent of smartphones shipped in the first quarter of the year, down from 23 percent a year ago. Still, Apple saw its strongest first quarter ever in terms of shipment volumes, as the company already announced last month it shipped a record 37.4 million iPhones.
But Apple's iOS platform, which is not found on smartphones other than the iPhone, couldn't keep up the pace of growth seen by Google's Android, which is available on a multitude of devices from numerous manufacturers.
Shipments of devices running Android surged from a 59.1 percent market share in the first quarter of 2012 to 75 percent in the same period this year. The number of Android devices estimated by IDC to have been shipped reached 162.1 million.
Google itself announced at its annual I/O developers conference on Wednesday that activations of Android devices recently surpassed the 900 million mark. Just a year ago, there had been 400 million activations, while the 100 million milestone was achieved in 2011, demonstrating the platform's accelerating growth.
With Apple and Google seeing their platforms combine to take more than 92 percent of the smartphone market, remaining competitors were left to take the scraps. Microsoft's Windows Phone took third, surpassing BlackBerry and growing its share from 2 percent a year ago to 3.2 percent in the first quarter.
Shipments of Windows Phone devices grew from 3 million in the first quarter of 2012 to 7 million in the same period this year. The quarter marks the first time Microsoft's Windows Phone platform has gone as high as third place.
Microsoft's gains were BlackBerry's losses, as the Canadian smartphone maker fell to a 2.9 percent share in the quarter, down from 6.4 percent a year ago. Just 6.3 million BlackBerry devices were shipped.
A better picture of BlackBerry's health will be made in the second quarter, when the company's new BlackBerry 10 platform and devices running it will have been available for the first three months. More than a million BlackBerry 10 units were shipped in the platform's first quarter of availability.
"Underpinning the worldwide smartphone market is the constantly shifting operating system landscape," said Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team. "Android and iOS accounted for more than the lion's share of smartphones in the first quarter, but a closer examination of the other platforms reveals turnaround and demand for alternatives. Windows Phone has benefited from Nokia's participation, and BlackBerry's new BB10 devices have already hit a million units shipped in its first quarter of availability."