Android Smartphones Top 50 Percent Worldwide Share

Barry Levine, newsfactor.com

Android smartphones are continuing their march to world domination. On Tuesday, a new study showed that Android-based smartphones had achieved a 52.5 percent market share in the third quarter -- more than double its share at the same time last year.

The report, from information technology research firm Gartner, also found that Symbian, once the leading operating system in the world, was now at 16.9 percent, less than half its 36.3 percent share last year. That is not surprising, given that Nokia has all but abandoned that platform in favor of Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 operating system.

Nokia King of Manufacturers

Third place was Apple's iOS at 15 percent, virtually the same as 2010's 16.6 percent. Research In Motion, which has been having a succession of problems in righting itself in this new, highly competitive smartphone market, is at 11 percent, a dip from last year's 15.4 percent.

Rounding out the survey were Nokia's Bada, at 2.2 percent, Microsoft at 1.5 percent, and Others at 0.9 percent.

Roberta Cozza, principal analyst at Gartner, said in a statement that Android "benefited from more mass-market offerings, a weaker competitive environment, and the lack of exciting new products on alternative operating systems such as Windows Phone 7 and RIM." She noted that Apple's market share suffered, especially in the U.S., as consumers waited for the new iPhone.

Nokia, still king of manufacturers at 23.9 percent, saw a drop in the second quarter but improvement in the third. Samsung takes second in device sales at 17.8 percent, followed by LG Electronics, Apple, ZTE, RIM, HTC, Motorola, Huawei Device and Sony Ericsson. Sales of smartphones to end users was up 42 percent over the same quarter in 2010.

Microsoft 'Will Keep at This'

Avi Greengart, principal analyst at Current Analysis, said he expected Windows Phone 7's market share to increase dramatically over the next year, as its partnership with Nokia results in a steady stream of new devices using that operating system. But, compared with last year, Microsoft's OS share dropped 1.2 percent.

RIM, he said, "needs to prove themselves," which they might be able to do with new OS products that are scheduled for release next year. But, he noted, to compete in this smartphone environment, it's "not enough just to have great features and a great user interface -- you also need an entire ecosystem."

Google, Apple and Microsoft, he said, have those three elements, and, even though Microsoft is playing catch-up, "they will keep at this" until they get it right.

Greengart noted that the success of Google's Android is not coming at the expense of Apple's devices, or vice versa. "The two companies are operating on different business models," he said, adding that, even as Android's market share grows, so does Apple's profit margin.

But the same doesn't necessarily apply to Microsoft, he said, "which is why it's so important to them that Microsoft Phone 7 begins to take hold."