updated 08:35 am EST, Mon January 31, 2011
Canalys says Android now top smartphone platform
Researchers at Canalys suggested a historic milestone in smartphones today as it claimed Android had overtaken Symbian for the best-selling platform. Google's OS represented 32.9 percent of smartphones shipped in the fall and passed Nokia, whose slipping share brought it down from 44.4 percent to 30.6 percent. The Finnish company still led as the largest hardware maker, at 28 percent, but it could no longer assume it had the most popular software.
Most of Android's rapid rise was owed to the sheer number of manufacturers, many of which became significant Android supporters after being virtually non-existent before. Most had already been involved significantly since 2009, but Acer, HTC, LG and Samsung all saw gains ranging from at least 371 percent (for HTC) to 4,127 percent (for LG) that made them significant players. Motorola and Sony Ericsson are widely known to have saved themselves almost single-handedly by dropping Microsoft or Symbian in favor of Google for high-end hardware.
Apple lost a slight amount of market share to dip to exactly 16 percent despite nearly doubling shipments from year to year. Both RIM and Microsoft faced steep collapses; the BlackBerry dropped from 20 percent a year ago to 14.4 percent as many of its users switched to Android, while Windows Phone 7's arrival wasn't enough to stop Microsoft from losing more than half its share to hit 3.1 percent.
The US remained the main battleground, but RIM unusually regained the top spot among individual phone designers as Apple shipped fewer US iPhones. HTC kept third place and helped Android claim the overall lead.
The outlook for Android in 2011 wasn't as certain, Canalys warned. Verizon's iPhone launch meant the carrier would no longer devote all its attention to Android and could see market share shift "dramatically" in 2011, analyst Tim Shepherd said. Google would have to count on more AT&T Android devices making up for the deficit.
Nokia is still the largest cellphone manufacturer for all types, but its exit from the top smartphone OS spot represents the end of an era for Symbian. The company's platform of choice had been virtually uncontested in smartphones for most of the past decade and only began to decline once the iPhone led many Europeans to jump ship.