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Windows Phone sales have almost ground to a halt

Android and iOS now own 98 percent of the smartphone market.

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Gartner has released its smartphone stats for Q4 2015 and the news is especially bad for Microsoft. In Q4 2014, the software giant owned 2.8 percent of the smartphone market -- not great, but still good enough for around 10 million units sold. In the same quarter of 2015, however, Windows Phone sales fell to 4.4 million, giving the OS a mere 1.1 percent of the total market. That means that it's basically in a death spiral, as consumers and app developers alike lose interest. Microsoft's rumored Surface Phone now looks like its last hope to rescue the division.

The rest of the smartphone news ain't great either, as the overall market grew just 9.7 percent, the least since 2008. Apple, for one, saw a big dip in its market share from 20.4 percent to 17.7 percent year-over-year, which jibes with reports that iPhone sales have dropped after booming earlier in the year. The good news for Apple is that it boosted its share a touch in 2015, and that it's reportedly introducing a lower-cost iPhone to compete in the mid-range market.

Meanwhile, Huawei keeps booming. The company saw a big boost in its worldwide market share from 5.7 percent in Q4 2014 to 8 percent in the same quarter of 2015. That came mostly at the expense of Lenovo, which dropped from a 6.6 percent to a 5.0 percent share. Samsung also gained a bit in the quarter, though it fell considerably in 2015 to a 22.5 percent market share from 24.7 percent last year.

Since most of the growth in smartphone sales is coming from emerging markets, companies like Huawei are taking advantage with affordable handsets. That puts Apple in a bind, growth-wise, as it either has to deliver a more affordable phone or try to steal high-end sales away from Samsung, Sony and other Android device makers. Given this snapshot of the current market, it will be interesting to see what kind of new devices emerge next week at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.

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