Android Dominates Again: Inside the Global Smartphone Market

by Jordan Richardson on November 5, 2012

Google’s Android operating system continues to dominate, having been featured on three out of every four smartphones sold in the third quarter.

Android-based smartphones made by HTC, Samsung and other manufacturers nearly doubled in the third quarter, hitting numbers of 136 million units shipped. Android now sits with 75 percent of the worldwide smartphone market, up significantly from the 57.5 percent mark they were at a year ago.

Apple, meanwhile, saw its market share grow to 14.9 percent in the third quarter – up from 13.8 percent a year earlier. Apple shipped 26.9 million units in the quarter.

Android’s market share gains came mostly at the expense of waning returns from other operating systems like BlackBerry, Microsoft’s Windows and Symbian.

“Android has been one of the primary growth engines of the smartphone market since it was launched in 2008,” said IDC analyst Ramon Llamas. “In every year since then, Android has effectively outpaced the market and taken market share from the competition. In addition, the combination of smartphone vendors, mobile operators and end users who have embraced Android has driven shipment volumes higher. Even today, more vendors are introducing their first Android-powered smartphones to market.”

iOS is the only other operating system that has hit the double-digits in terms of market share. BlackBerry, for instance, sits with just 4.3 percent. Symbian has 2.3 percent, while Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile is at an even two percent.

Windows has obviously faltered in catching up to its competition, having sold even fewer units than Symbian while hitting its second anniversary. Windows Phone has a lot of smartphone support and a lot of big name companies are making and shipping Microsoft-based phones, but it just hasn’t panned out yet. Windows 8 phones are on the way, but there’s no telling if they’ll be able to make a dent.

“The share decline of smartphone operating systems not named iOS since Android’s introduction isn’t a coincidence,” said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC. “The smartphone operating system isn’t an isolated product, it’s a crucial part of a larger technology ecosystem. Google has a thriving, multi-faceted product portfolio. Many of its competitors, with weaker tie-ins to the mobile OS, do not.”

Google does benefit for a number of reasons, of course. For one thing, Apple’s iOS is only available on Apple’s products. The Android product portfolio is titanic by comparison. Also, Android is offered free to phone makers and makes money from online ads. That gives it a major advantage, meaning that Android’s growth in the market probably won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

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