When it comes to smartphones, it has long been a two pony show. Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS platforms together make up over 85% of the US smartphone market according to recent reports, and their momentum is building. Android and iOS have been stealing customers away from the now antiquated BlackBerry 7 and the yet-to-take-off Windows Phone platforms, leading many to ask when (or if) a third alternative to these platforms will emerge.
While most of the hard-fought battles have been about which platform reigns supreme, an arguably more interesting battle is emerging about which company will become a true third-alternative smartphone platform, the one that could steal market share away from the duopoly created by Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. Windows Phone has widely been heralded as that platform, but Research in Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry 10, set to be unveiled at the end of the month, is a more compelling platform, which coupled with the company’s longstanding relationship with the enterprise could see RIM come out on top.
Who do we think will win the smartphone OS wars, you may ask? Read on after the break to find out.
Microsoft’s next-gen Windows Phone 8 platform was the first of the two next-generation platforms to come to market, with devices launching back in November. A handful of premium devices such as the Nokia Lumia 920, HTC’s Windows Phone 8X, and Samsung’s ATIV Odyssey are now (or will soon be) available on various carrier partners, though little is known about how many consumers are choosing these Windows Phone products. Manufacturers have yet to release sales figures for any recently launched device, though we suspect none of them have garnered the same momentum enjoyed by the iPhone or Samsung’s line of Android products.
Windows Phone 7.5, and the flagship Lumia 900 device running the platform, launched to lackluster sales totals in 2012, with Microsoft’s platform failing to garner more than 5% of the smartphone OS market globally. While Windows Phone 8 shows a lot of general performance improvements over previous versions of Windows Phone and support for new hardware technologies (dual-core, NFC, etc.), after spending a few weeks with both Verizon’s Lumia 822 and AT&T’s Lumia 920, Windows Phone still stumbles in several key areas. Most notably, the lack of a true notifications system, the fact that most apps don’t really run in the background, and lack of enterprise-friendly features such as VPN make Windows Phone 8 a less than compelling alternative for the smartphone market.
In an event at the end of January, it’s RIM’s turn to potentially shine as the company launches BlackBerry 10. From what we know of BlackBerry 10 thus far, the platform represents RIM’s most significant overhaul yet, with several features that mirror, and perhaps best, those found in Android and iOS. RIM has struggled to keep up as the market has left it behind. Once the iPhone was released, RIM rested on its enterprise laurels as consumers started to pick up iPhones (and then, Android devices) for their personal use, which coupled with the growing bring your own device (BYOD) movement in the enterprise, accounts for RIM’s sub-10% market share in a smartphone market it once dominated. Not until 2012 did RIM choose to address the iPhone, and the fruits of that labor won’t even come to market until Q1 2013, more than 5 years after the original iPhone was released.
More and more information about BlackBerry 10 is leaking ahead of the company’s unveiling at the end of the month. BGR has posted over 100 images from the OS itself, and what we know of BlackBerry 10 thus far has left us genuinely excited to give the platform a run-through. A new video out today does just that, comparing a near-final build of BB10 to the iPhone 5.
From the improved camera functionality that allows you to piece together several images into one unified experience, to the useful on-screen keyboard and the unique Flow interface, BlackBerry 10 clearly presents a modern smartphone interface that could bring customers back into its fold. Couple that with its award-winning enterprise technologies, and RIM may just have what it takes to emerge as the viable third platform in the smartphone market.
Windows Phone has made great strides since the initial launch over two years ago, but the platform still has serious shortcomings that leave a sour taste in my mouth. I genuinely wanted to enjoy Windows Phone, though my time with the latest Lumia devices have left me (and many others) wanting, and RIM has the unique opportunity to seize on that mentality with BlackBerry 10. For the first time in a long time, I’m genuinely excited about a BlackBerry product, and I think RIM may have a winner on its hands in 2013.
This article was written by Anthony Domanico
Anthony is the Editor in Chief of Techgress, and a big mobile and gaming geek. He's covered mobile technology for the better part of three years, and gets excited about shiny, new things. He currently uses an iPhone, iPad Mini, and Nexus 7, but Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry devices are never too far away.