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Summary:

Gartner last year said Android wouldn’t be the No. 2 operating system in the world until 2012, but the future has come early: the platform grabbed 25.5 percent of the market in the third quarter, up from 3.5 percent a year ago, moving into second place.

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Gartner last year said Android wouldn’t be the No. 2 operating system in the world until 2012, but the future seems to have come early for the platform, which Gartner said today grabbed 25.5 percent of the smartphone market in the third quarter, up from 3.5 percent a year ago, good enough to move into second place behind Symbian.

The ascent of Android is well documented, and shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if you’ve been watching sales over the last year. But what it suggests is that the smartphone market is still very fluid and even predictions made a year ago are proving to be wrong. We look at the momentum of Android and Apple and presume it to be a two-horse race, but the fact is that the competition is still in its early stages. Gartner said smartphones, which almost doubled in growth in the third quarter, only account for 19.3 percent of all cell phones sold in the third quarter, meaning there’s a lot of opportunity left as consumers make the shift to full-featured handsets.

Research in Motion, Nokia and Microsoft, the whipping boys of the last year, are in the process of turning themselves around, and while it’s tempting to write them off, the fact is there’s a lot of game left to play. Android’s rise just shows that it has the momentum now, as it continues to proliferate on more and more handsets on networks around the world. But seeing how fast things are changing makes me realize that picking winners at this point doesn’t make much sense. For now, here’s a snapshot of how things stacked up in the third quarter:

Android devices collectively sold 20.5 million units, up from 1.4 million a year ago, and pushed past Research in Motion. While Android surged, iOS held its ground, dropping slightly from 17.1 percent to 16.7 percent in the third quarter. Apple devices sales overall have almost doubled, from 7 million units last year to 13.5 million in the third quarter. Research in Motion, meanwhile, dropped to fourth place with a 14.8 percent market share, down from 20.7 percent in the same quarter last year.

Symbian also gave up market share, falling to 36.6 percent in the third quarter, down from 44.6 percent a year ago, while Microsoft Windows Mobile rounded out the top five with 2.8 percent compared to 7.9 percent a year ago. The momentum behind smartphones helped catapult Apple into fourth place overall in sales of mobile phones, ahead of RIM.

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  1. *Sigh*

    I wonder if you guys ever look at regional figures?

    Here’s a hint: Nokia have next to no US presence. The US is where a substantial chunk, possibly the majority, of those Android devices were sold. It’s also Apple’s most important market.

    It would stop you writing silly stuff like this:

    “Research in Motion, Nokia and Microsoft, the whipping boys of the last year, are in the process of turning themselves around, and while it’s tempting to write them off”

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    1. It would be good to take a little more regional look. But these are the numbers we have for the worldwide market. But my point is that it’s still early yet. So you’re right, Nokia could turn things around if it gets its act together. We’ll see….

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  2. These are the numbers that make Steve Ballmer sweat through his shirt. And make Nokia an acquisition target.

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    1. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Nokia is so far behind now. Yes, they sell a lot of phones worldwide, but the transition to WP7 phones that require at least a 1 Ghz CPU will be extremely slow. Maybe at a rate of 2-3 phones per year.

      Also, I think Nokia’s product cycle is slower than most manufacturers nowadays (except SE). It’s just that not too many people notice because nobody cares what version their Symbian OS is and they release so many phones at different price ranges that is hard to tell which one is a sequel of a previous phone, to calculate the time difference between the 2.

      Buying Nokia now would also alienate Samsung and LG for sure, perhaps even HTC, but I don’t think HTC will be the first to leave them now that they have some license partnerships going on.

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      1. “Nokia is so far behind now.”

        Did you even think before you wrote that?

        As for Nokia being acquired… by whom? MS? I doubt it.

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  3. Might want to clarify this sentence, “Apple devices sales overall have almost doubled, from 7 million units last year to 13.5 million in the third quarter,” to read, “iPhone sales overall have almost doubled…” so the distinction between them and iPod touch (not to mention iPad) sales are clear.

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  4. Have you seen the online video, the “Story of Stuff” with Annie Leonard. Now, Annie Leonard has a new video the “Story of Electronics” http://storyofstuff.org/electronics/

    It’s a funny and insightful video questioning the “designed for the dump” mentality that encourages constant upgrading of our computers, cell phones, game consoles and other electronics – while creating massive amounts of e-waste.
    Check it out at http://storyofstuff.org/electronics/

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  5. [...] adoption has not slowed, and numbers released this week showed the platform had moved into the global number two smartphone position behind Symbian. Android has captured 25.5 percent of the world’s smartphone market, up from a [...]

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  6. [...] Whether Apple likes it or not, according to market trends Android is officially the dominant mobile OS in North America, with some forecasting that Android will become the dominant mobile OS after Symbian by 2012. [...]

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  7. The articles calls them iOS devices, but only talks about iPhone numbers. iPads and iPod Touches are also iOS devices.

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    1. Yes, and neither of those devices are phones. They don’t count.

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  8. [...] the dominant platform for mobile phones. But while it’s making inroads both in the U.S. and worldwide, there’s still one area it’s lagging in: genuine, unbridled fan [...]

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  9. [...] has already seen a lot of success with its mobile efforts. Android is outpacing its rivals in sales, and is poised to be the top smartphone platform. But it’s clear Google isn’t just looking to sell more phones. It sees that it can make [...]

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