Android topples Symbian as world’s No. 1 mobile OS

Tuesday, February 1, 2011, 7:46 by Tech Correspondent

Android was the most common smartphone OS in the last quarter of 2010, overtaking former world No. 1 Symbian which runs on Nokia phones, according to a recent study by U.K.-based research firm Canalys.

Nokia, according to Canalys, will have a hard time competing with Android, which has now been around for about a year and a half. In the last quarter, Nokia had 28 percent of the global smartphone market while Android devices comprised 33 percent.

Worldwide shipments of Android phones were about 33 million at the end of 2010, an increase of 700 percent over the previous year. The most popular Android smartphone makers in 2010 were HTC with HTC Evo, HTC Wildfire and HTC Desire; LG with Optimus; and Samsung with Galaxy S. The two companies’ smartphones are said to have comprised about half of all Android products in the fourth quarter last year. Related: Hottest Android phones in India

According to market research company NPD Group, Android phones now comprise more than half of all consumer smartphone sales in the United States after their market share grew by 9 percent this holiday season.

smartphones market share photo

LG’s sales volumes are said to have increased by 4,127 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared to the same time in 2009. Similarly, Samsung’s sales volumes grew by 1,474 percent, Acer’s by 709 percent and HTC’s by 371 percent. This growth in sales is attributed to sales of Android devices.

Will Android continue to rule?

Android isn’t expected to repeat its fantastic performance this year though, because Apple iPhone will soon be on Verizon as well, and analysts predict that Verizon subscribers will dump their Android devices for iPhones.

Further, Apple also has plans to release the CDMA iPhone in emerging markets such as India – where Nokia’s smartphones predominate and where, with popular Android phones such as HTC’s Desire being launched, Google’s OS is also fast catching up.

In fact, much of the increase in market size during the precious year has been due to the growth of smartphone use in emerging markets, and with ubiquitous connectivity from local wireless technologies as well as next-generation broadband networks such as WiMax and 3G, the smartphone market is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years and device makes such as Apple are keen to establish their position in these markets.

Increase in the overall smartphone market size is indicated by the fact that only 4 percent of cell phones sold worldwide during the fourth quarter of 2010 were iPhones, even though iPhone shipments during the period doubled from the previous year to reach about 16 million.

Apple iPhone: The profit-maker

Apple continues to command a disproportionate volume of the industry’s profits relative to the volumes it sells. Apple iPhones accounted for 43 percent of global handset industry profits in the period.

Apple’s share in industry profits is more than double of Nokia’s though Nokia sells 10 times as many cellphones as Apple does. Nokia smartphone sales accounted for about 20 percent of global smartphone industry’s profits during the quarter. The high-end market, in which iPhones predominate, is a big profit making segment, according to experts.

Before Android and the iPhone came around, the smartphone market was 50 percent dominated by Nokia’s phones with the remaining half comprising of devices running Windows Mobile OS and Palm phones. Devices running Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 OS, which was launched in mid-2010, comprised about 5 percent of the smartphones bought during the last quarter in the U.S. Two million WP7 devices were shipped to carriers last year, according to Microsoft, which did not mention how many of these phones were bought by people.

HP Palm: Missing in Action

While Palm was absent from the last quarter’s industry results, there are expectations that it will make a comeback this year, backed by Hewlett Packard by which it was recently taken over.

HP’s Palm smartphone will likely be released at MWC 2011 in Barcelona this February, and analysts reason that considering how well established the competition is, HP will have to sell many million devices in an intensely challenging atmosphere to even be recognized among the tier two smartphone makes.

RIM’s BlackBerry: Fading glory

Shipments of another popular smartphone make, BlackBerry, increased from about 11 million last year to nearly 14.5 million in 2010 though the company’s market share in the period dropped from 20 to about 14 percent.

Contrary to popular imagination, analysts don’t think that BlackBerrys make a good enterprise device. Market research indicates that Android is likely to be more popular than the iPhone or BlackBerry in enterprises because Android uses Web technologies, C, C++ and Java, which most developers already understand and can therefore easily make apps for; while both BlackBerry and iOS app development requires some additional study.

Currently, BlackBerry users often keep and additional, personal machine; but future smartphone partitioning technologies as well as dual boot possibilities might change the current landscape significantly with people using more than one operating system on a smartphone just the same way as they have begun to use two carriers’ networks.

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