No. 3 war: Xperia Z vs HTC One vs Nexus 4 vs Lumia 920 vs Z10

Samsung Galaxy S4 and Apple iPhone 5 lead, but the battle for the No. 3 smartphone just got fiercer

While Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and Apple’s iPhone 5 (and the upcoming iPhone 5S) battle it out for the top honours in the smartphones race, something remarkable is happening in the battle for the No. 3 slot.

That battle, it seems, is fiercer than the one being fought by Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung (NASDAQ:SSNLF) for the top slot.

For, while there are (right now) just two contenders for the crown of the king of smartphones, the battleground for the No. 3 slot is getting ever-crowded, and as you read this, there are five very serious contenders for that slot, vying for each other’s market share.

Those contenders include, in no particular order, the water- and dust-resistant Sony Xperia Z, which is taken the market by storm in the past three months. Then there’s the all-aluminium-bodied HTC One, which most critics agree is the best smartphone in the market at present, but that could change with the imminent launch of the iPhone 5S in the near future.


Another contender in the race for the No. 3 slot in the smartphones domain is the Windows 8-powered Lumia 920, boasting PureView camera technology. It’s been losing ground to newer launches, but has been steadily gaining ground in emerging markets, especially India, where numbers get bigger due to the sheer size of the market.

Also in the reckoning is the BlackBerry Z10, which supposedly helped bring its parent firm back from the dead. While it was bogged down by initial reports of a supply constraint, the company has since followed it up with the launch of the Q10, which too is in competition against its full-touchscreen sibling for the No. 3 smartphone slot.


But that isn’t all – there is the LG Nexus 4, which helped LG become the No. 3 smartphones vendor in the first quarter of 2013, trailing Samsung and Apple, but ahead of Huawei and ZTE (yes, those two were indeed among the top 5 smartphones vendors in Q1 2013), according to Strategy Analytics.

So which one has a lead for the No. 3 slot? The answer to that depends on what date one chooses to look at.

While in terms of shipments, LG was indeed the No. 3 smartphones vendor, shipping 10.3 million units during the first three months of 2013, it indeed trails the leaders by a long margin. Samsung shipped a mammoth 69.4 million units in the quarter, and that was before even the Galaxy S4 phenomenon hit the shelves (the phone was unveiled on March 15, with global availability only at the end of April). And Apple, for the record, shipped 37.4 million units in the quarter, almost half of Samsung’s.

So, is LG’s Nexus 4, arguably the best Google phone ever, the No. 3 player in the smartphones domain? Not necessarily, as LG shipments of course included a host of other phones, and the Nexus 4 somehow lacks the oomph and character to emerge as a convincing No. 3 phone in the global domain.

The Sony Xperia Z is, by many standards, a very credible No. 3 player. One of those standards is the global Web traffic being accessed through the device. According to the (Microsoft-affiliated) UK-based 51Degrees, which tracks data requests from mobile devices, the Xperia Z is the current leader in the race for the No. 3 slot.


But the 51Degrees analyses is limited in that it doesn’t include the LG Nexus 4.

According to recent data published by 51Degrees.mobi, which compares Web traffic from the Xperia Z, the HTC One, the Lumia 920 and the BlackBerry Z10 devices, the Xperia Z’s share of Web traffic is almost a third (32.7 per cent) of the total Web traffic received by these four devices.

Putting a dampener on the Sony Xperia Z camp’s realistic claim for the No. 3 slot is the fact that the Xperia Z lost web traffic in the month of May – its share of the web traffic was in fact an even higher 40.3 per cent in April, so it might be losing ground.

So who’s gaining, you might ask. It’s the HTC One, which seen its web traffic share jump from a mere 3.5 per cent in March 2013 to a respectable 9.88 per cent in April to a very strong leap to 28.2 per cent in May 2013.

The now-on, now-off global availability of the HTC One had been an issue prior to April, and that could have been the reason for the low web traffic in the previous months. Now that the device is becoming readily available in many markets across the world, the HTC One may truly be coming to the fore although we’ll need to look at June numbers (which will also give us the second quarter data) to see if the pendulum is really swinging the HTC One way.

Either way, however, HTC as a company has a long and very bumpy road to negotiate before it can start to emerge as a credible No. 3 champion. By volume, HTC is not even among the Top 10 global smartphone vendors.

According to Scott Bicheno of Strategy Analytics, “HTC’s global smartphone shipments declined a huge 24 per cent annually in the first quarter of 2013, as the quarter before the launch of its new HTC One flagship model found HTC facing fierce competition across all regions and price-tiers, principally from Apple in North America, domestic vendors in China, and Samsung globally.”

He maintains that “HTC must now target markets and niches with the highest potential in order to punch above its weight against giant competitors.” The Taiwanese company might have just done that in the months of April and May, with Web traffic through the HTC One surging ahead in these months.

The Lumia 920, sadly, has been bleeding web traffic, with its share dwindling from 91.53 per cent (yes, more than 90 per cent) in January 2013 to 24.56 per cent in May 2013. The BlackBerry Z10, though being a great phone in its own right, never seemed to have realistically threatened the No. 3 crown, with its share of web traffic rising to a high of just 18 per cent in March, and falling to 14.5 per cent in May 2013.

The battle for the No. 3 slot has really become fiercer with the launch of some cool new devices this year, and it will perhaps take another quarter or so for things to become clearer. Watch this space.

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