BlackBerry Returns to Top Five Smartphone List – But Not Because of Success

Research In Motion has returned to IDC’s list of top five global smartphone manufacturers, where it was once an immovable staple.

Unfortunately for RIM, its return isn’t due to growing shipments. It’s due to the shortcomings of Nokia.

BlackBerry shipments are down nearly 35% worldwide from last year—hardly a success story. RIM shipped less than eight million units, down from almost 12 million in the same quarter of 2011, according to IDC. But, remarkably, that was good enough for third place in IDC’s list, in which every company but Samsung and Apple had a weak quarter.

Nokia was wiped off the list for the first time since 2004, while RIM, ZTE, and HTC combined for just 12.5% marketshare—less than Apple alone at 15%, and not even close to Samsung at 31%.

“Nokia’s share losses have meant gains for competitors,” said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. “The company’s transition away from Symbian-powered smartphones to ones shipped with Windows Phone has left ample opportunity for rivals to steal share away from Nokia over the past 18 months. However, the smartphone market is still relatively nascent, which means there’s room for multiple vendors and operating systems to flourish, including Nokia.”

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The worldwide mobile phone market grew 2.4% year over year in the third quarter of 2012, driven almost exclusively by Apple and Samsung. In the worldwide smartphone market vendors shipped 179.7 million units in the third quarter of this year compared to 123.7 million units in the year-ago quarter, according to IDC.

What the report had to say about RIM:

Research In Motion’s shipment volumes appear to have flattened though the company posted the second-highest year-over-year decline of any the leading vendors. RIM relied on its older product portfolio and models to achieve its status as a top 5 smartphone seller. RIM’s installed base, which topped 80 million active users during the quarter, provides further evidence of the company’s widespread presence globally. Still, without a new flagship model in time for the holiday season and BB10 models not expected until the first quarter of 2013, RIM’s position as a top 5 smartphone vendor will be under tremendous pressure from other companies.

RIM’s marketshare shrunk from nearly 10% in late 2011 to just over 4% today.

As IDC points out, the pressure of competition and the amount of companies forced into major transitions is staggering.

“Nokia is not the only smartphone vendor in transition,” added Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC’s Mobile Phone team. “Research In Motion, although still a market leader, expects to start shipping its first BB10 devices in 2013. Motorola, once the number 3 smartphone vendor worldwide, is redirecting itself under its parent company Google. These are just two vendors among many that feel the competitive pressure of Samsung and Apple, but are striving to create multiple points of differentiation to assert upward pressure.”