iPhone Still On Top of Android Globally

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The iPhone may have given up its edge in the U.S. market over Android recently, in terms of smartphone OS share, but globally it still leads Google’s mobile OS. That’s according to market research firm Gartner (via PC World), who recently conducted a survey of the global smartphone terrain covering the first quarter of 2010.

That lead is thanks to two key international markets in which the iPhone still boasts a significant lead over its Google competitor. In Europe and Asia, Apple maintains a lead that amounts to around a 3 million unit advantage over Android. It’s still a significant lead, but the fact is that Android is still in a very strong position in all world markets.

It’s especially strong because it’s the fastest growing of all the smartphone operating systems represented in the survey, and it’s experiencing that growth during a heady time for smartphone sales in general, with global sales overall seeing record increases. Put simply, Android is grabbing the most significant portion of an expanding pie.

Android’s share grew from 1.6 to 9.6 percent in Q1 2010, while Apple’s share went from 10.5 to 15.4 percent. Both are still behind Symbian and RIM, but the shares of both those companies shrank during the period measured. Symbian, the worldwide leader, dropped to 44.3 from 48.8 percent. RIM slid from 20.6 to 19.4. Windows Mobile is the big loser overall, dropping from 10.2 to 6.8 percent, which puts it behind Android in the global rankings.

It’s a mixed bag for Apple. On the one hand, it’s still performing well in the global market, and two of the three major smartphone markets still have them positioned ahead of Android. On the other hand, Android’s growth is meteoric, and the numbers would seem to indicate that customers new to the smartphone market are leaning in Android’s direction overall.

What’s crucial to keep in mind is that Android’s share grew from next to nothing to a significant percentage. It’s highly likely that it’ll continue to have similarly strong performance globally, since it can really only go from nothing to something once. Now that it’s entrenched itself in the market at large, its growth rate will likely slip to something much more reasonable, like Apple’s five percent gain.

Will Android continue to threaten Apple’s piece of the smartphone market pie? No doubt. Will it blow past iPhone OS and emerge as the dominant force in the market? That’s much less likely. Android and Apple will contend with each other on the world stage, but it’ll be a real fight, not a one-sided affair.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: Who Owns Android’s Future? Google — Or Apple?

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