Android no. 2 mobile OS: Apple eats its dust

Google's Android OS is poised to be the leading mobile operating system if it can overtake the aging Nokia Symbian OS.

Google's Android is now the second most popular mobile operating system in the world - second only to Nokia's Symbian OS, according to Gartner's third quarter report. Apple's iOS comes in third, followed by Research In Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry OS, and Microsoft Windows Mobile.

In just a year, Android gobbled up over a quarter of the worldwide mobile OS market (25.5 per cent), outclassed only by Nokia's Symbian, which has 36.6 per cent of the market. iOS, now on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches, has 15.7 per cent of the pie, and RIM has just under 15 per cent. Windows Mobile is last, with 2.8 per cent (this doesn't include the newly released Windows Phone 7 sales).

This time 2009, Android was an upstart mobile OS with a huge potential representing a mere 3.5 per cent of a market dominated by Nokia (44.6 per cent) and RIM (20.7 per cent). Apple had just over 17 per cent and Windows Mobile 7.9 per cent. 12 months later, the picture is radically different. Android has overtaken Microsoft, RIM and its bitter rival iOS, with only Nokia's giant operations standing in its way.

The Android Army Fights Back

Gartner's report says that sales of Android devices were particularly dominant in North America, thanks to offerings from Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile - all rivals of AT&T, the exclusive carrier of the Apple iPhone for the last three years. Gartner estimates Android phones accounted for 75 per cent to 80 per cent of Verizon's trade. The report mentions that Android's explosive growth was also rocketed by cheap smartphone sales, as well as various offers such as two-for-one.

Samsung sold seven million Android Galaxy S phones worldwide, and three million of those were in the U.S., making the phone a huge success. This helped Samsung's smartphone market share to reach 17.2 per cent in the third quarter of 2010, again, only outclassed by Nokia (28.2 per cent). Apple has only 3.2 per cent of worldwide phone sales, RIM has 2.9 per cent, with Motorola and HTC, two big manufacturers of Android phones, having 2.1 and 1.6 per cent respectively. Gartner says Apple sold 13.5 million units in the third quarter of 2010.

The Next Battle: Tablets And Beyond

Rivals are still scrambling to put together their defenses against Apple's iPad, which has a 4 million units sold head start. In the Android gang, there is the Samsung Galaxy Tab, now on sale, and several other tablets expected from other manufacturers. But Google is yet to release a version of it Android OS optimized for tablets. Gartner forecasts that the tablet market will be huge in 2011, as almost 55 million units could be sold altogether.

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Daniel Ionescu

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