Android becomes world’s No 1 smartphone platform

1 Feb 2011

Google’s Android operating system has just become the dominant platform for smartphones, having shipped 33m devices, or one-third of the 101m shipped in Q4, according to Canalys.

Shipments of Android-based smartphones reached 32.9m, while devices running Nokia’s Symbian platform trailed slightly at 31.0m worldwide. But Nokia did retain its position as the leading global smartphone vendor, with a share of 28pc.

The fourth quarter also saw the worldwide smartphone market continue to soar, with shipments of 101.2m units representing year-on-year growth of 89pc. The final quarter took shipments for the year to fractionally below 300m units, with an annual growth rate of 80pc over 2009.

In Q4 2010, volumes of Google OS-based smartphones (Android, OMS and Tapas) were again boosted by strong performances from a number of vendors, notably LG, Samsung, Acer and HTC, whose volumes across these platforms grew 4,127pc, 1,474pc, 709pc and 371pc respectively year-on-year. HTC and Samsung together accounted for nearly 45pc of Google OS-based handset shipments.

“(The year) 2010 has been a fantastic year for the smartphone market. After a difficult 2009, the speed with which the market has recovered has required real commitment and innovation from vendors and they have risen to the challenge,” said Canalys VP and principal analyst Chris Jones.

NFC, dual-core processors and 3D displays

“But vendors cannot afford to be complacent; 2011 is set to be a highly competitive year with vendors looking to use new technology, such as dual-core processors, NFC and 3D displays, to differentiate their products and maintain value.”

At a regional level, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) remained the largest market, with shipments totalling 38.8m and a year-on-year growth rate of 90pc. Nokia continued to lead in EMEA and Asia Pacific, but in 2010 it was overtaken by RIM in Latin America, which shipped more than a million more units than Nokia in Q4 2010. The vendor was particularly helped by the popularity of its mid-range smartphones, such as its Curve family of devices.

The US continued its reign as the largest country market in terms of shipments, at more than double the size of the Chinese smartphone market. RIM recaptured first place from Apple, as the latter experienced its usual US seasonal dip, and RIM benefited from the first full quarter of shipments for the BlackBerry Torch. HTC successfully maintained its third-place ranking in the US for the third consecutive quarter, driven by its speed to market with the latest Android updates and new Windows Phone 7 devices.

“The US landscape will shift dramatically this coming year, as a result of the Verizon-Apple agreement,” said Canalys analyst Tim Shepherd.

“Verizon will move its focus away from the Droid range, but the overall market impact will mean less carrier-exclusive deals, while increasing the AT&T opportunity for Android vendors, such as HTC, Motorola and Samsung.”

Android was by far the largest smartphone platform in the US market in Q4 2010, with shipments of 12.1m units – nearly three times those of RIM’s BlackBerry devices. Windows Phone 7 devices appeared too late in the quarter to take full advantage of holiday season purchasing. As a result, Microsoft lost share in the United States, from 8pc in Q4 2009 to 5pc in Q4 2010.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years