Perhaps the most impressive stat on Gartner’s Q3 smartphone report: Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone blew past Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows Mobile as the no. 3 smartphone operating system, behind Nokia’s (NOK) Symbian and RIM’s (RIMM) BlackBerry.
Specifically, Apple sold 4.7 million iPhones to end users in Q3, up 328% year-over-year, while Microsoft’s partners sold 4.1 million Windows Mobile phones to end users, down 3% year-over-year. (Symbian’s partners sold 18.2 million, down 12%; RIM sold 5.8 million, up 82%.)
Why is this so impressive? Because mobile phone companies — including Microsoft — have insisted for years that the mobile market is all about customisation: Different phones for different folks. So Microsoft offers different phones from more than 50 gadget manufacturers and 100 mobile operators in more than 100 countries. Meanwhile, Apple beat them with one phone — two, we suppose, if you count their two storage capacities — in about 60 countries.
Will Apple increase its lead in Q4? No doubt some of Apple’s success in Q3 was due to pent-up demand, which Apple met. The iPhone will be a much-wanted Christmas gift, but the economy stinks.
Meanwhile, U.S. carriers are largely countering Apple with non-Microsoft phones, such as T-Mobile’s Google (GOOG) Android G1, Verizon Wireless’s BlackBerry Storm, and Sprint Nextel’s (S) Samsung Instinct, which doesn’t help Redmond.