Android and Windows Phone bookended the smartphone operating system market in the first quarter.
Market researcher Gartner said in a report released today that over 100 million smartphones were sold worldwide during the first quarter of 2011. Google's Android OS secured 36 percent of the market, with more than 36.2 million units sold to consumers during the period. Nokia's Symbian took the second spot, at 27.4 percent of the market and 27.6 million units sold. Apple's iOS platform and Research In Motion's BlackBerry came in third and fourth with 16.8 percent and 12.9 percent market share, respectively.
Microsoft found itself far behind the rest of the pack. According to Gartner, just 3.6 million smartphones using a Microsoft mobile OS were sold last quarter, for a 3.6 percent market share--and no doubt more alarmingly for Redmond, the newer Windows Phone OS saw unit sales of only 1.6 million.
Gartner's figures show just how much of a difference a year can make. During the first quarter of 2010, Android's market share stood at just 9.6 percent, putting it in fourth place. Symbian at the time had a 44.2 percent market share, followed by BlackBerry OS and iOS with 19.7 percent and 15.3 percent market share, respectively. The older Windows Mobile had 6.8 percent market share.
Whether Microsoft can change the tide in the smartphone OS market with the help of Nokia remains to be seen. Earlier this year, the companies signed a deal that will make Windows Phone 7 the "principal" operating system in Nokia's line of smartphones. Windows Phone 7 is expected to be running on Nokia devices as early as next year. In the first quarter of 2011, Symbian was running on Nokia smartphones.
The Microsoft-Nokia deal "will precipitate a competitors' rush to capture Symbian's market share," Gartner said in the report, adding that "in the long term, Nokia's support will accelerate Windows Phone's momentum."
Gartner reported last month that it believes Windows Phone's market share will jump to 19.5 percent in 2015. It thinks Android will lead the market in 2015 with 48.8 percent market share.
Looking at handsets (smartphone or otherwise) rather than operating systems, Gartner found, not surprisingly, that Nokia easily bested all others with 107.6 million units sold during the period. Samsung and LG rounded out the top three with 68.8 million and 24 million mobile phone sales, respectively. Apple sold 16.8 million mobile phones during the first quarter, while RIM sold 13 million devices. All told, 427.8 million mobile phones were sold last quarter, up from the 359.6 million sold during the first quarter of 2010.
Out of all mobile phone makers, Apple's year-over-year growth has been most impressive, Gartner's findings reveal. During the first quarter of 2011, Apple more than doubled its first-quarter 2010 mobile phone sales of 8.2 million.
"This strong performance helped Apple consolidate its position as the fourth largest brand in the mobile communication market overall," Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, said in a statement. "Considering the higher-than-average price of the iPhone, this is a remarkable result and highlights the impact that a strong aspirational brand can have on a product."