Android is still the No. 1 choice of current and future smartphone owners, but Windows Phone 7 has been kicking up more interest among prospective phone buyers, says a report released yesterday by NPD Group.
Among all smartphone operating systems, Android generated interest among 63 percent of consumers, more than any other mobile OS, according to NPD's Connected Intelligence (PDF), a service that analyzes connected devices, access, and content. As just a single example, one-third of BlackBerry smartphone owners are eyeing an Android phone as their next purchase.
And though Google's OS has accounted for almost half of all smartphone purchases over the past three quarters, its continued dominance is by no means assured, notes NPD.
"Android is also experiencing continued competition from Apple's popular iPhone, as well as some nascent competition from Windows Phone 7," Linda Barrabee, research director for Connected Intelligence, said in a statement.
Among current and future smartphone owners, 44 percent are thinking of buying a Windows Phone 7 device, according to NPD's data. Despite those results, Microsoft still faces challenges trying to turn its latest mobile OS into a major player.
Almost half (45 percent) of consumers aren't even familiar with Windows Phone 7. And among the 50 percent looking to pick up a smartphone over the next six months but who have no interest in Microsoft's OS, most said they're just not aware of it. For example, 46 percent specifically said that they "don't know enough about it."
Microsoft also faces a market entrenched by other mobile platforms and ecosystems, as 21 percent of consumers not considering Windows Phone 7 said they have "too much time or money invested in another smartphone OS."
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Noting that Windows Phone 7 has "a way to go before consumers really understand what it is," Barrabee said that "but with the right marketing mojo, apps portfolio, and feature-rich hardware, Microsoft could certainly improve its standing and chip away at Android's dominant market position."
Since its debut last October, Windows Phone 7 has run into a tough time going up against the likes of the iPhone and Android. A Gartner report from May showed Microsoft's OS at the bottom of the list in terms of worldwide market share. And an NPD report released last month still found Windows Phone 7 far behind Android, iOS, and BlackBerry with only around 5 percent of the market.
However, some analysts are expecting a surge for Microsoft's mobile OS over the coming years. An IDC report from March put Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile in second place behind Android with a 21 percent market share in 2015.
Analysts and Microsoft alike are anticipating a boost in share courtesy of the company's partnership with Nokia. Microsoft is also busy prepping the next major update to Windows Phone 7, dubbed Mango, as part of its ongoing effort to counter the competition.