Microsoft's Windows Phone is still an underdog in the smartphone market, but it's starting to put up a decent fight.
Windows Phone accounted for 5.6 percent of all U.S. smartphone sales over the three-month period that ending April 13, according to Kantar Worldpanel . That's up from 3.8 percent a year earlier. Kantar's data is based on continuous surveys of more than 240,000 consumers.
Keep in mind that Kantar is only measuring recent sales, not total market share, but the increased sales over the last few months is a sign that Windows Phone is scratching its way upward.
The most significant number of new Windows Phone users had previously owned feature phones, suggesting that the low cost of devices like Nokia's 822 (free on Verizon) and Microsoft's eye-catching interface have done well among first-time smartphone buyers.
Kantar found that 25 percent of recent Windows Phone buyers were repeat customers, and 23 percent had defected from Android. (Kantar didn't provide a complete breakdown, but that only leaves 10 percent for people who switched from other devices such as the iPhone, Blackberry, or dumb phones.)
The demographics of Windows Phone buyers are also changing, Kantar claims, though the company didn't provide specifics. Between 2011 and 2012, the operating system was more popular with those aged 50 years to 64 years, but now it's gaining share among users aged 25 years to 34 years.
Worldwide, Windows Phone's situation isn't quite as healthy. In the first quarter of 2013, both Gartner and IDC pegged shipments at around 3 percent of the total market. However, Windows Phone has been a hit in some parts of the world, with Microsoft claiming that its operating system outsells the iPhonein seven markets.
While the horse race is fun to watch on its own, Windows Phone's slow ascent may be having some tangible effects. We've seen some major apps finally land on Windows Phone 8 recently, including Pandora, Hulu Plus, and Temple Run.
Meanwhile, Verizon has finally decided to sell the Nokia's Lumia 928 , a variant of the Lumia 920 that launched on AT&T late last year. Although these aren't major achievements, they'll help Windows Phone become just a bit more viable as a third ecosystem behind Android and iOS.