Research firm Gartner has published the latest quarterly smartphone numbers, and it’s easy to see why the honchos at Google (s goog) are all smiles at the I/O conference this week. Android grew an impressive 8 percent of smartphone market share this year, moving it into fourth place overall. This puts Android only trailing Nokia (s nok), RIM (s rimm) and Apple (s aapl) in smartphone sales. Windows Mobile (s msft) drops to fifth place behind Android.
Nokia remains the 800-pound gorilla in the smartphone cage with 44 percent of the market, although this share is a 4 percent drop. RIM showed a modest 1 percent YOY drop while Apple gained almost 5 percent. Windows Mobile and Linux both dropped almost as much as Nokia.
Microsoft faces a big challenge with the launch of Windows Phone 7 looming near. It will be worth watching to see if its market share goes back up once the new platform launches. WebOS is not garnering enough sales to appear as in individual line item on Gartner’s chart; HP (s hpq) has some work ahead with the integration of Palm (s palm).
Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub. req’d): To Win In the Mobile Market, Focus On Consumers