Android Gets Even Bigger And Tops The Charts For Smartphone OS

android blow up

Nokia (NYSE: NOK) may still be shipping more devices than any other mobile phone maker, but worldwide, it’s now losing in the smartphone platform war to Android, according to research from Canalys. In the fourth quarter of 2010, shipments of the Google-backed OS were 32.9 million, compared to Symbian at 31 million. In the U.S. Android’s dominance is now even more pronounced: according to stats from NPD today, Android was on 53 percent of all handsets shipped in the quarter, its next closest competitors, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and RIM (NSDQ: RIMM), are both at 19 percent.

This is very much a story about the power of crowds: Android is so big partly because of the number of ODMs making devices based on the operating system. Taken individually, Nokia is still the single biggest smartphone vendor worldwide, with a 28 percent share of a market that surpassed 100 million units for the first time. In all, there were 101.2 million smartphones shipped in Q4, an increase of 89 percent compared to the same quarter a year ago. For the full year, the UK-based analysts said that there were just under 300 million smartphones shipped.

The many flavors of Android. Vendors that have ridden on the Android wave in the last quarter include LG (SEO: 066570) (which saw its Android volumes grow by a crazy 4,127 percent); Samsung (1,474 percent growth); Acer (709 percent); and HTC (371 percent) year-on-year. But as we’ve pointed out before, there will be Android winners, and Android losers: Canalys estimates that Samsung and HTC alone accounted for nearly 45 percent of the market.

One of the big trends will likely drive Android uptake even further, particularly in markets like China, is the fact that we are starting to see some versions of the OS being created to cater to specific markets — namely OMS and Tapas for the Chinese market.

But at this point, greater China is still behind EMEA as the world’s biggest regional market, says Canalys. EMEA shipments totalled 38.8 million. While Nokia led in EMEA, it was overtaken by RIM in Latin America, where there were more than one million more BlackBerry devices shipped than there were Nokia devices. What BlackBerry apparently has done very well — and this will be crucial in developing markets — is the marketing of “mid-range” smartphones like the Curve.

A closer look at the United States. The U.S. is still the largest single country market, with smartphone shipments there nearly double what they are in China, says Canalys. In the U.S. RIM is currently at the top, largely on the strength of the Torch. Apple took second place; and HTC held on to third with its mixed portfolio of Android and Windows Phone 7 devices.

Canalys believes that this will all “shift dramatically” as Verizon gears up to offer the iPhone, the first time the device has been sold by anyone other than AT&T (NYSE: T) in the U.S. Not only will that give Apple more exposure, but it will likely take away steam from devices running Android and RIM’s range.

Once again, though, when it comes to OS, Android is overwhelmingly at the top. There were 12.1 million Android-based devices shipped, which Canalys says was nearly triple the number of BlackBerries. NPD presents the numbers in a slightly different way, and notes that Android now has a 53 percent share of the smartphone market, which appeared to grow at the expense of Apple and RIM — which are now both at 19 percent, with Apple declining by four percent and RIM falling by two percent — and Microsoft’s legacy OS, which fell by three points to four percent and is still being offered on certain devices.

Windows Phone 7, notes Canalys, “appeared too late in the quarter” to capitalise on the holiday season. That turned out to be a crucial mistake: NPD says WP7 market share is only two percent. Overall, Canalys says Microsoft’s collective OSs are now at five percent of the market, down from eight percent a year ago.


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