One in every two smartphones sold in the world is an Android device, according to Gartner, which said that Google’s mobile platform has surged to a 52.5 percent market share worldwide in the third quarter. Android’s blistering growth, which doubled from 25.3 percent a year ago and is up from 43.4 percent in the second quarter, is coming at the cost of almost every other smartphone platform, including iOS.
Overall, the smartphone market grew 42 percent year over year to 115 million smartphones sold in the third quarter. But with Android outpacing the market, other competitors are having a hard time keeping up. IOS grew by almost 4 million unit sales in the third quarter to 17.3 million iPhones, but its share of the market slipped to 15 percent, down from 16.6 percent a year ago and 18.2 percent in the second quarter, when it sold 19.6 million units. Apple lost some momentum with the later-than-usual fall introduction of the iPhone 4S, but it should rebound in the coming quarter now that the 4S is out with expanded distribution. Samsung’s Bada was actually up to a 2.2 percent market share, up from 1.1 percent a year ago, putting it ahead of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.
The rest of the market fared far worse. Symbian continued an ungraceful decline with its market share plummeting to 16.9 percent from 36.3 percent a year ago, with unit sales dropping by about 10 million devices. The platform was expected to suffer with Nokia’s move to Windows Phone 7, but the quick abandonment of Symbian by consumers is still pretty stunning and raises questions about how many Nokia smartphone users will be around when the company starts really cranking out WP7 devices.
Research In Motion’s BlackBerry OS was also down, with its market share slipping to 11 percent, down from 15.4 percent a year ago. Unit sales were basically flat over the past year, meaning that while the smartphone market has been on fire, RIM is just treading water. With more BlackBerry 7 devices coming out now, RIM might see some better performance. But with the transition to BBX phones next year no big secret, customers may well hold off to get their hands on the next operating system.
Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 has its work cut out for it. Microsoft sold just 1.7 million devices in the third quarter, representing a 1.5 percent share of the market, according to Gartner, down from 2.2 million units a year ago. Now with the Mango update available and Nokia starting to release Windows Phone 7 devices, we should see some lift for Windows Phone 7. But at this point, Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do.
Gartner said Samsung was the top smartphone maker, with 24 million units sold to end users, thanks to strong sales of Galaxy S devices. There have been some questions about how many smartphones Samsung has actually sold, because the company didn’t report those numbers.
The smartphone market continues to look like a two-platform race, with Android setting a torrid pace with its vast collection of devices and iOS the only challenger that can hold its own. This quarter should see a lot more iOS sales, but the big test will be next year for rivals like Microsoft and RIM. They need to turn things around and start to see some real progress with their new operating systems. Android and iOS are not waiting, and the market is now turning away from early adopters and tech-savvy consumers to more basic, price-conscious mobile users.