Android has become the No.2 smartphone OS worldwide

Research firm Gartner has published its quarterly analysis of the worldwide mobile phone market. The data available today covers the third quarter of 2010.

During this quarter, 417 million mobile phones were sold, a 35% increase from the third quarter of 2009. Smartphone sales grew 96% year-on-year and almost one in five phones sold in Q3 2010 was a smartphone.

The top three worldwide mobile phone manufacturers have remained the same: Nokia, Samsung and LG. Their respective market shares, though, all went down compared to Q3 2009. Nokia now only has about 28% of the market, compared to 36% a year ago.

Apple has, for the first time, become the fourth biggest mobile phone maker, which is an astonishing feat considering they only ever sell one (or two) phones at a time – and those are smartphones. RIM has fallen to fifth, even though its market share has increased by .1%. Crazy times.

Perhaps the most interesting is the evolution of smartphone OS market shares. Here Symbian is still king, but Android has, as expected, started to seriously threaten its dominance. iOS has also overtaken RIM’s BlackBerry OS to become the third most sold smartphone OS. And even though iOS powers non-phone devices such as the iPod touch and iPad, these numbers only reflect phones – keep that in mind. I can’t stress this enough – for Apple to reach the third place in the smartphone OS battle with only one new device per year is incredible.

Make no mistake though, Symbian sales have grown year-on-year. Albeit by ‘only’ 61%. How much did Android grow year-on-year, you ask? That would be 1,439%. Yes, granted, it pretty much wasn’t anywhere to begin with, but still, very impressive. Only 11.1% separates Symbian and Android now, and judging by the recent trends, that’s not difficult for Android to overcome. Maybe not this year, but in 2011 all bets are off.

Because Android will continue to grow. It can’t not continue to grow. Right now it’s backed heavily by only two manufacturers: HTC and Motorola. Samsung has more of a three-way strategy, between Android, Windows Phone 7 and their own Bada – and they may suddenly decide to go all in with either of them. For now, all three seem to peacefully coexist in Samsung’s portfolio, and the Galaxy line has sure done well and contributed to Android’s growth so far.

But – Sony Ericsson has so far been a marginal player in the Android world. However, Android is now pretty much the only smartphone OS they use, so we’ll see some changes there – probably starting in the first two quarters of 2011. That would be another manufacturer betting (almost) everything on Android.

Then we have ZTE and Huawei, both of which have just recently introduced some very interesting low-end devices (the Orange San Francisco/ZTE Blade, ZTE Racer and Huawei Ideos come to mind). And make no mistake, the low-end and the midrange is where the winners are made in the smartphone race. It’s where Symbian reigns supreme right now (by a very wide margin), and it’s where Android has to go to become number one. Which will be easy once those reasonably priced devices start becoming available globally, and not just in some markets.

Also, let’s not forget LG, who have until very recently been focused primarily on featurephones – and losing a lot of money in the process. However, they seem pretty intent on finally delivering smartphones, and Android (along with Windows Phone 7) plays a big role in their strategy. The Optimus One is slowly starting to become available worldwide, and it’s a very decent midrange offering that, in some markets, will be priced extremely well – and therefore has the potential to sell a lot.

The (renewed) Android strategies of ZTE, Huawei, Sony Ericsson and LG have not counted at all in the numbers for the third quarter. Most of them will probably not make a huge impact on the numbers for Q4 either. But starting in Q2 of next year, 7 of the Top 10 phone manufacturers will each have a very compelling range of Android devices available. Not one device each, but a range. And the lower they’re willing to go price-wise, the more they’re guaranteed to sell. Sure, HTC may sway some resources from Android to Windows Phone 7, since Microsoft’s operating systems are what helped the Taiwanese manufacturer make a name for itself in the beginning, but even if that happens, it will be easily compensated by the other manufacturers’ investments in phones running Google’s platform.

Nokia sure knows how to push out dozens of different models each year, but there will clearly be more Android phone models on the market in 2011 than handsets powered by Symbian. And unless Nokia somehow manages to re-capture at least part of the ‘buzz’ and dramatically improve Symbian’s perception in the media as well as in average people’s minds, there’s no way that Android will not be Number One by this time next year. No way.

Now let the fanboy fights begin. That’s what comments are for, no?

Note: I will start mentioning MeeGo whenever Nokia finally decides it’s time to sell a MeeGo phone. But even if we take MeeGo into account when making predictions about 2011, that doesn’t do anything to make Symbian’s position any better, since, you know, they’re different operating systems.

Also note that Windows Phone 7 is the wild card in the market share equation for 2011. Personally I don’t think it will ever (I mean Windows Phone 7 – not talking about the next iteration of it) reach the Top 3, which from this point on will hold the same three operating systems for quite a while (though, as I said before, Symbian and Android may some day switch places). Windows Phone 7 has the potential to overcome RIM’s BlackBerry OS pretty fast (especially once phones based on the second reference chassis design – one that mimics the so-called ‘BlackBery style’ – start becoming available in Q1-Q2 of 2011), so Microsoft’s new mobile OS, if all goes well, may be No.4 by this time next year. But all may not go well, and in that case Microsoft could potentially keep their current No.5 position (still held by Windows Mobile in Q3 2010).

As Android’s growth has proven (just look at ‘analyses’ from a year ago), nothing is impossible in the mobile world in these times. That said, let’s not forget *how* Android got to where it is now: relatively solid and on-par with competitors software (starting with version 2.x) coupled with excellent manufacturer support, great carrier support (across all carriers in the US) and many different devices at many different price points. Windows Phone 7, at the moment, isn’t on par, feature-wise, with the competition, doesn’t yet have extended carrier support, has decent manufacturer support (3 out of the Top 10 manufacturers), but not at the level Android will be getting (7 out of 10). And Windows Phone 7 devices all compete at the high-end of the marketplace right now. While that may be good for profits, it isn’t good for sales numbers.

Windows Phone 7 also has another issue in my opinion: although many devices running it were launched, the differences between them are often down to minute (and perhaps not quite important) details. That’s thanks to Microsoft enforcing their minimum hardware specs, but the fact that, for now, all manufacturers decided to go with the minimum specs (with very few devices as exceptions) creates a situation where there are too many Windows phones to have the spotlight only on one, yet they’re all so similar that people may get confused as to why a dozen different models are needed.

Author: Vlad Bobleanta

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  • Nilsoft81

    wrong analysis…WP7 will make android extinct and low end market will be continued to rule by symbian..

  • Himaat

    In your dreams mate. android will be number one. WP7 will be extinct soon i hope….:)

  • $e@lblaighter

    I totally agree with you Himaat. WP7 will die soon in my opinion. In 2013 there will be no WP7 OS, and Android will be on the first place soon. :) Android is the king now.