Android drives big smartphone growth in 2010, IDC says

Continued growth expected in 2011 with wider range of smartphone prices

Worldwide smartphone shipments were up 75 per cent, to 302 million in 2010, a trend driven by impressive Android growth in the fourth quarter, market research firm IDC said.

For the fourth quarter, nearly 101 million smartphones shipped globally, up 87 per cent over the prior year, IDC said in a report released Monday.

"Android continues to gain by leaps and bounds, helping to drive the smartphone market," said Ramon Llamas, an IDC analyst.

He called the Android operating system the "cornerstone" of the smartphone strategy for many vendors and the biggest challenger to Nokia's Symbian OS, the market leader.

IDC predicts that the highest-priced smartphones will drop in price in 2011 to increase competition among vendors. At the same time, manufacturers are building low-price and mid-price smartphones as well.

Samsung had the most impressive year of all the smartphone makers, with 318 per cent year-over-year growth in shipments. In 2010, Samsung shipped 23 million smartphones, including 9.7 million in the fourth quarter alone, selling Galaxy S series smartphones on the Android platform as well as devices on Windows Phone 7.

Samsung has focused heavily on growth in the U.S. market, and while it finished the entire year with 7.6 per cent global smartphone market share, it wants to increase that percentage by 40 per cent in 2011, IDC said.

For the quarter and year, the rankings for smartphone vendors were nearly the same. For the year, Nokia finished with the biggest share (33 per cent), Research in Motion was second (16.1 per cent); Apple was third (15.7 per cent); Samsung was fourth (7.6 per cent); and HTC was fifth (7.1 per cent).

For the quarter, the only difference in that 2010 order was that Apple jumped into second place at 16 per cent share, ahead of RIM at 14.5 per cent.

Apple gained primarily in the fourth quarter from shipments to Asia/Pacific countries including Japan, but also sold more iPhones to enterprise users, IDC said. In all, Apple shipped 14.6 million iPhones in the fourth quarter and 47.5 million iPhones for all of 2010, IDC said. A shipment means that phones are in the hands of retailers for sale or have been sold to end users.

While some analysts said Windows Phone 7, which appeared mid-way through the fourth quarter, has shipped and sold slowly, IDC said the 1.5 million units of WP7 shipped in the fourth quarter showed it had "ramped up quickly."

Nokia shipped 5 million Symbian 3 devices by the end of the fourth quarter, comprised of its N8, C7 and C601 smartphones. IDC also noted that Nokia continues to struggle with sales in North America and recently canceled the X7 smartphone at AT&T and no replacement has been announced.

IDC didn't publish results for all the major smartphone operating systems, but Canalys recently reported that 32.9 million Android smartphones sold by various vendors were shipped in the fourth quarter, taking the top spot from Nokia's Symbian with 31 million in the quarter.

Nokia alone makes Symbian devices, but Android devices are made by HTC, LG Electronics, Motorola and Samsung and a number of smaller vendors, IDC noted.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com .

Read more about smartphones in Computerworld's Smartphones Topic Center.

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