Sales of smartphones with Microsoft Windows software have surpassed those using Nokia's old Symbian system in Britain, research showed on Tuesday, a sign of progress in Nokia's switch to Microsoft software.

Data for the three months to mid-February, after the launch of Nokia's Windows-based Lumia 800 model, showed Microsoft's market share rose 5-fold to 2.5 percent in the British market, which is considered an indicator of Europe-wide trends.

Market share for Symbian decreased to 2.4 percent from 12.4 percent a year earlier, according to Kantar.

While data showed the market is increasingly dominated by Google's Android with a 48.5 percent share and Apple with 28.7 percent, Kantar said it represented a milestone for Nokia's adoption of Windows Phone 7 (WP7).

There are strong signs that WP7 Nokia handsets are starting to make an impact on the European smartphone market though U.S. sales, where the Nokia brand is weaker, remain underwhelming, Kantar analyst Dominic Sunnebo said in a statement.

The fact that WP7 sales have overtaken Symbian based on one handset is encouraging; however, Nokia will need to expand the range quickly in order to keep up with the slew of next generation competitor products being launched in quarter two.

Lumia 800 took 87 percent of Windows Phone sales in Britain, according to the research.

The Windows Phone share of the U.S. market shrank to 1.6 percent in the 12 week period, from 3.5 percent a year earlier.

(Reporting By Tarmo Virki; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)