Android has now surged past Symbian to become the world's top smartphone platform, says a report out today from research firm Canalys.
Global shipments of Android-based phones hit 32.9 million in the final quarter of 2010, pushing Nokia's Symbian down to second place with 31 million smartphones shipped.
The beneficiaries of the demand for Google's mobile operating system were the vendors themselves. Respectively, LG, Samsung, Acer, and HTC watched their sales volumes jump 4,127 percent, 1,474 percent, 709 percent, and 371 percent from the last quarter of 2009, according to Canalys. Together, HTC and Samsung accounted for almost 45 percent of all the Android phones shipped in the fourth quarter of 2010.
Looking at the other smartphone systems, third-place Apple nearly doubled its fourth-quarter iPhone shipments to 16.2 million from only 8.7 million a year ago, though its market share dipped a bit to 16 percent from 16.3 percent. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion saw its shipments rise to 14.6 million from 10.7 million the prior year, but its slice of the market dropped to 14.4 percent from 20 percent.
Shipments of Microsoft's Windows Mobile phones inched down to 3.1 million from 3.9 million, while the company's market share fell to 3.1 percent from 7.2 percent a year ago.
Across the global market, U.S. consumers accounted for the highest number of smartphones shipped, more than double the number shipped in China.
Android proved the hottest platform in the United States with shipments of 12.1 million units, almost three times the number for RIM's BlackBerry devices. Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 mobile platform launched too late in the fourth quarter to enjoy the surge in holiday shopping, says Canalys, leaving the company with a 5 percent share of the U.S. market, down from 8 percent in the year-ago quarter.
How might the new Verizon iPhone shake up the mobile market? Canalys offered its view.
"The U.S. landscape will shift dramatically this coming year, as a result of the Verizon-Apple agreement," Canalys analyst Tim Shepherd said in a statement. "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."
The smartphone industry as a whole shipped 101.2 million units in the fourth quarter, a jump of 89 percent from a year ago. That helped boost shipments for all of 2010 to slightly under 300 million, a rise in the annual growth rate of 80 percent from 2009.
"2010 has been a fantastic year for the smart phone market," Canalys vice president and principal analyst Chris Jones said in a statement. "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."
Looking ahead, though, competition in the smartphone market will continue to be hot and heavy.
"Vendors cannot afford to be complacent," Jones added. "2011 is set to be a highly competitive year with vendors looking to use new technology, such as dual-core processors, NFC (near-field communication), and 3D displays, to differentiate their products and maintain value."