Longtime observers of the smartphone space have been scratching their heads over the past few weeks, a period that saw the stock of some of the most dominant companies in this blossoming space, most notably Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), slump dramatically, and the runts of the litter -- fallen giants such as Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) and Nokia (NYSE: NOK) -- stage improbable rallies.
The stock market is an unforgiving place, but it seems investors are willing to give both RIMM and Nokia second chances, as positive news regarding their new and upcoming products have reminded investors these companies aren't entirely dead yet. Indeed, Research In Motion's shares have spiked more than 40% over the past month, while Nokia finds its shares also up an enviable 24%. However, some news emerged today that might give pause to believers in the RIMM comeback story.
Not so fast
RIMM's shares crumbled today, falling a startling 10.5% on news that its share of the U.S. smartphone market has crumbled over the past 12 months. The report from Kantar Media revealed that the Canadian handset maker's share had fallen from 8.5% to a meager 1.6%, which naturally spooked investors.
That wasn't the only bad news for Research In Motion that the report contained. Perhaps more alarming than the American market figures alone, RIMM lost ground in nearly every market reported in the survey, with Germany being the lone winner, where it increased its market share 0.9%. Equally ugly, Symbian OS, the software that powers Nokia's feature phones, also saw its market share erode in every market contained in the survey. However, Symbian is decreasing in its importance within Nokia's overall strategy. The company has partnered with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) to help the world's dominant PC software company make a dent in the smartphone market, where its current presence is negligible. These figures fit with the broad trends we've seen in the global smartphone market over the past several years.
The report did contain another major surprise, though, revealing that Apple's iOS had unseated Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android smartphone OS from its top spot in the U.S. market. However, Android easily maintained its lead in every other market in the survey, according to Kantar, and that's been the broad trend, with Google's free operating system proving an attractive option for a myriad of handset makers.
What it all means
Today's report goes a long way toward reiterating the current balance of power in the smartphone market. Although the recent bullishness surrounding Research In Motion and Nokia speaks to their potential rebounds we'll see play out in the coming months, they'll still have a long way to go before they become legitimate challengers to the duopoly in the space. Both Nokia and Research In Motion have seen their shares fall precipitously over the past 12 months, making at least some kind of rally seem understandable. However, investors interested in the space should be wary of these stocks, especially at the more elevated levels they sell for today.