Analyst: Android handsets set to overtake iPhones

Phones based on Android, the Google-led open mobile operating-system platform, will outsell Apple's smartphones by 2012, research by Informa suggests
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor

The iPhone's lead over smartphones based on Android is set to be short-lived, new research indicates.

Android smartphone sales will outstrip iPhone sales by 2012, a report by industry watchers Informa Telecoms & Media has predicted.

Last month, O2's parent Telefónica Europe revealed sales of the iPhone topped one million in the UK. While T-Mobile UK — the exclusive carrier of the first Android device, the G1 — wouldn't put a figure on how many of the devices have been sold, it did say the handset now accounts for 20 per cent of its contract sales.

Google released the first beta SDK (software developer kit) for its Android open operating-system platform in August last year, with the first handset — the G1 smartphone — launching the following month. A second handset, the Magic, is expected to arrive next month.

Apple's iPhone has a slightly longer heritage, with the first device arriving in the US in June 2007. However, the 3G iPhone has only had a few months' headstart on its Google rival, hitting shops in July last year.

Both Android and OS X are eating into the market share of the number one-selling smartphone OS-maker, Symbian. Last year, just under half of smartphones sold were based on Symbian — a drop of 16 percentage points on the year before, when it had 65 per cent market share. BlackBerry OS, Linux and Windows Mobile are also gaining popularity and eating into Symbian's share, according to Informa.

However, the analyst firm believes Symbian's switch to open source will help the Symbian Foundation maintain its leadership over Android, Linux and Microsoft over the next few years.

In 2008, almost 162 million smartphones were sold, according to Informa, surpassing laptop sales for the first time. The analyst forecasts smartphone penetration will reach 13.5 per cent of new handsets sold this year, and that it will treble by 2013,  to well over one-third (38 per cent) of mobile devices.

The research by Informa Telecoms & Media also suggests smartphone sales will continue to be immune to the global economic downturn, maintaining robust growth of 35.3 per cent, year-on-year.

However total handset sales will not be so resilient and are set to fall 10.1 per cent, year-on-year.

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