HELSINKI Price cuts helped Japan's Sony Corp. (6758.T) become the No. 4 smartphone maker in key European markets in July-September, overtaking Nokia (NOK1V.HE) and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion RIM.TO, market research firm Kantar said on Monday.
Sony still trailed Samsung Electronics (005930.KS), Apple (AAPL.O) and HTC (2498.TW) in the five largest European markets Kantar tracks in the 12 weeks to early September.
"Sony has dropped prices a lot over the last six months," said Kantar analyst Dominic Sunnebo, noting that the average retail price of a Sony smartphone is less than half that of market leader Samsung Electronics.
Sunnebo said Sony, which bought Ericsson (ERICb.ST) out of a joint venture earlier this year, also benefited from its brand strength in France and Germany and its historic presence in the market. Consumers upgrading to smartphones often stick with the same vendor.
Cheaper models such as Nokia's Lumia 610 meanwhile helped Microsoft's (MSFT.O) Windows Phone platform to gain traction in the smartphone operating system (OS) market, Kantar said.
"Windows is making steady progress in the big European economies and is now challenging BlackBerry for third spot in the European OS league," said Sunnebo. With a new version of Windows Phone coming out this quarter, it is highly likely that Microsoft's platform will overtake RIM's this year, he added.
Google's (GOOG.O) Android is the leading platform in key European markets, where it controls shares ranging from 59 percent of the market in Italy to 84 percent in Spain.
(Editing by Catherine Evans)