Google’s Android overtakes Nokia’s Symbian as world’s top smartphone platform

Google’s Android operating system became the World’s top smart-phone operating system during the first quarter of the year, overtaking Nokia’s Symbian, according to the latest numbers from Gartner. The confirmation from Gartner has come after a tight fight between the two OSes during the last quarter of 2010, when another agency, Canalys, said Android had overtaken Symbian.

Both Gartner and IDC had been holding back on crowning Android the smartphone king, till today.

Android jumped from just 9.6% share among smart-phones during the first quarter of 2010 to a whopping 36% in the first quarter of this year.

The rise to the global smartphone crown has come in just over four years for Google’s Android. On its way, it has beaten competitors like Symbian and Windows which are more than a decade old and present right at the birth of the smartphone era in the 90s.

The current smartphone operating system market shares are the reverse of where Nokia and Android were just two quarters before. In the third quarter of 2010, Nokia led with a total market share of 36.6% while Android had just 25.5% share.

The magnitude of the shift becomes clearer when one notes that for the whole of last year, Android had a market share of 22.7% while Symbian was present on 37.6% of the smartphones.

Most of the damage was done to Nokia’s ageing Symbian OS, Blackberry and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile.

The biggest fall came for Symbian — falling from 44.2% a year ago to just 27.4% in 2011, followed by RIM, which saw its market share shrink by 6.8% to 12.9%. Microsoft’s Windows Mobile was present on just 3.6% of all smartphones sold.

Windows devices launched at the end of 2010 failed to grow in consumer preference and mobile operators continued to focus on Android, Gartner said.

While Gartner analysts called the move by Nokia to move to Windows as the “big news of the quarter,” they warned that several new, mid-tier Android phones are on their way to the market at present, pointing to rising shares for the OS in coming quarters.

“Several manufacturers, including HTC, Sony Ericsson, Alcatel and ZTE, announced a broader portfolio of mid-tier devices, mainly based on Android, which will reach the market in the second quarter of 2011,” it predicted.

Nokia’s move towards Windows will force other brands to opt for Android and try to capture the 25% market share that is currently enjoyed by Symbian, analysts said. “This will precipitate a competitors’ rush to capture Symbian’s market share in the midtier,” said said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner.

In the long term, Nokia’s support will accelerate Windows Phone’s momentum, Garnter predicted. Some other research groups have predicted that the Nokia move will help Microsoft beat Android or become a strong second place contender in five years.

At the same time, Cozza said that with each new Android or Apple phone sold, it becomes that much more difficult for the Nokia-Microsoft combine to make a comeback.

“The shift toward an ecosystem focus, application and services is the critical success factor for device manufacturers. “Every time a user downloads a native app to their smartphone or puts their data into a platform’s cloud service, they are committing to a particular ecosystem and reducing the chances of switching to a new platform. This is a clear advantage for the current stronger ecosystem owners Apple and Google,” she said.

Gartner also had a kind word to say about Research In Motion, which, like Microsoft, has been hit by the tsunami of consumer-centric smartphones. It said that blackberry’s transition to the QNX OS in 2012 “should make its smartphones more competitive in graphics, performance and touch, and unify RIM’s tablet and smartphone user experience.”


Nokia, Samsung see market-share shrink, Apple & HTC emerge winners in Q1