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Android may have some shortcomings, but Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has made enormous advances with manufacturers in terms of getting its OS on thei…

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Android may have some shortcomings, but Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has made enormous advances with manufacturers in terms of getting its OS on their smartphones, and in subsequently getting consumers to buy them. According to figures out today from Gartner, more than 50 percent of all smartphones bought by consumers in Q3 were built on the Android OS. That growth has been at all other platforms’ expense: the figures indicate that every other smartphone platform has declined in marketshare over a year ago.

Android’s current share of 52 percent is a big gain on last year when it only had 25.3 percent of sales. But as you can see from the table below, Android’s gains are outstripping the growth of the overall smartphone market, which is up by 42 percent to total sales of 115 million units.

That’s not the case for another big handset maker, Apple: Although iOS grew in actual unit terms by some four million devices, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) has actually lost market share to Android overall. It accounted for 15 percent of handset sales compared to 16.6 percent in Q3 2010. RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) saw a similar decline but on a smaller scale, its sales grew by 200,000 devices but it still lost about four percent of its market share in sales.

Gartner includes Samsung’s feature phone OS, bada, in its smartphone category (a sign of things to come from Samsung, perhaps?). It was the only other OS besides Android in the rankings that saw a gain in market share, up to 2.2 percent from its previous share of 1.1 percent, as sales more than doubled to 2.5 million units in the quarter.

Meanwhile, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), Symbian and “others” (covering webOS) all declined both in sales and market share.

Nokia (NYSE: NOK) has yet to start selling its first two new Windows Phone-based smartphones — the Lumia 800 will go on sale as of tomorrow, Wednesday, September 16, in the UK. Everyone will now be watching closely to see whether their introduction (along with the army of other Windows Phone devices that have now started to populate the market) will move the needle for Windows Phone. It sorely needs it: Gartner says that there were only 1.7 million Windows Phone devices sold in the last quarter, compared to 2.2 million in the same quarter a year ago.

After many quarters of remaining on top, and despite Nokia’s decision to discontinue its Symbian-first strategy for new smartphones, Symbian is finally seeing a precipitous decline: it’s now in number-two with a 17 percent share, down by nearly 20 percent from a year ago.

In the wider market Nokia is maintaining its lead with 23.9 percent of all sales, although with a smaller margin between it and number-two Samsung. Gartner says that the overall mobile market grew by 5.6 percent compared to the 42 percent growth in smartphone sales, so that underscores how all handset makers need to focus on smartphones to stay afloat longer term. The total number of mobiles sold in Q3 were over 440 million units.

Apple and ZTE appear to be catching up to LTE in the overall rankings, although there remains a nearly 10 percent gap between the three of them and Samsung.

The focus will inevitably have to shift now to more emerging markets and the next tiers of consumers (middle/late adopters) in mature markets — and catering to consumer tastes and price points in those areas — because growth among early adopters in mature markets like the U.S. has “stalled” compared to a year ago, Gartner says. That was a point that was also highlighted in research from NPD yesterday. Their analysts found that the price of smartphones is now dipping below $200 in the U.S.

Gartner’s explanation for the stall was that consumers are awaiting new models of phones like the iPhone, which may well have been the case, but that comes also with the fact that there are now significantly more embedded devices among a certain demographic of users: that will drive the need to target new markets.

  1. Every couple of weeks Android is becoming the most popular mobile OS in a new country. South America and Eastern Europe along with some Asian countries lead the shift. The developed countries will take slightly longer due to the larger established base. The world map of most popular mobile OS by country is available at http://www.browserrank.com

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