Since the Nokia Lumia 1520’s six-inch display has the Windows Phone phablet market seemingly locked up, a number of Microsoft’s new Asian partners are going small.
Three of Microsoft’s newest partners—BLU, Prestigio, and YEZZ—announced new Windows Phones at the Computex show in Taiwan, with several 4-inch phones leading the way. YEZZ even named its phone “Billy” after founder Bill Gates, according to Microsoft.
In the United States, Microsoft’s own Nokia brand dominates the Windows Phone landscape, ceding just a small fraction of the market to HTC and Samsung. But the company’s market share is expected to be just 3.5 percent of all smartphones sold in 2014, according to IDC, with the majority ceded to Android and iOS. In Europe, however, Microsoft’s share is 8.1 percent, according to April data from Kantar Worldpanel, and the company has at times climbed to second place in the smartphone market in countries like Italy. Microsoft has also talked aggressively about gaining share in so-called “BRIC” growth-market countries, such as Russia and India (the other two being Brazil and China).
Many of Microsoft’s new partners, however, plan to launch their phones both overseas and in the United States, even if they have yet to announce partnerships with U.S. carriers.
At its Build conference earlier this year Microsoft announced its newest licensee, Prestigio, which announced its first two Windows Phones this week: the Prestigio MultiPhone 8500 DUO and Prestigio MultiPhone 8400 DUO, both slated for the European market. Both phones have quad-core, 1.2GHz processors, 8-megapixel (MP) cameras, dual-SIM capability, and IPS displays. But the $235 8500 DUO boasts a 5-inch, 720×1280 display, and the 8400 DUO includes a 4-inch, 480×800 display. Prestigio will begin selling them in July and August, the company said.
BLU also teased new 4-inch and 5-inch Windows Phones (above, top) in a variety of colors. The new phones will be arriving in the United States at some point, as well as Latin America, the company said.
YEZZ said that it plans to bring its phones to the United States as well. Earlier this month, the company announced the $249 Billy 4.7, a phone named for Bill Gates. The phone has a 4.7-inch display, a 1.2-GHz processors, an 8MP camera, and dual SIMs. YEZZ also plans to launch a Billy 4.0 phone for $139, with a 4.0-inch OGS screen.
A number of other smaller Windows Phone partners also showed off prototypes: BYD showed off a 4-inch, 800×480 prototype that lacked a front-facing camera, while Quanta showed off a ruggedized 5-inch phone with a removable battery.
Wistron was one of the few that went big—really big. Its 6.45-inch Wistron Tiger prototype includes a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, and not surprisingly, a full HD display. Compal, which has built Windows Phones under the Nokia name, also has Windows Phone plans in place, according to reports.
As for HTC, the second largest Windows Phone partner within the United States, both sides are remaining quiet for now. HTC has said previously that it hasn’t severed ties with Microsoft after its Nokia acquisition.
“I’d love to break some news here if I could,” Nick Parker, Microsoft’s vice president of OEM partners, told CNET at Computex. “But instead I’ll just say that Microsoft will continue to have a great relationship with HTC. New things are coming, so get excited.”
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As PCWorld's senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.