Android powers smartphone boom

Figures from analysts at IDC show more than 100 million smartphones were shipped in the fourth quarter of last year, overtaking PC shipments for the first time
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Smartphone manufacturers almost doubled their fourth-quarter shipments in 2010 to reach more than 100 million, according to new figures from IDC.

Shipments during the last three months of the year totalled 100.9 million, up 87.2 percent from 53.9 million in the same period in 2009, the market research firm said on Monday.

PC shipments stood at a record 92.1 million in the fourth quarter 2010, IDC reported in January, so the new figures indicate that smartphones are now outselling personal computers for the first time.

In the whole of last year, 302.6 million smartphones shipped, a 74.4 percent increase on 173.5 million in 2009. Android handsets are behind much of the surge, IDC said on Monday.

"Android continues to gain by leaps and bounds, helping to drive the smartphone market," IDC senior research analyst Ramon Llamas said in a statement. "It has become the cornerstone of multiple vendors' smartphone strategies and has quickly become a challenger to market leader Symbian.

"Although Symbian has the backing of market leader Nokia, Android has multiple vendors, including HTC, LG Electronics, Motorola, Samsung and a growing list of companies deploying Android on their devices," he noted.

However, IDC's figures do not show an entirely gloomy picture for Nokia's Symbian platform. Sales of smartphones using Symbian "ramped up quickly, just in time for the holidays", as did those using Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 operating system, Llamas said.

By the end of 2010, Nokia had shipped five million handsets based on Symbian^3 and manufacturers had sent out more than 1.5 million handsets based on Windows Phone 7, according to IDC.

Nokia maintained its lead in the smartphone market, with 28.3 million devices shipped in the fourth quarter. The Finnish firm's market share is slipping, but it is doing so in the context of an overall boom in the market — its quarterly shipments still grew 36.1 percent year-on-year.

Apple was in second place with 16.2 million iPhones shipped, up 86.2 percent year-on-year. Research In Motion was close behind with shipments of 14.6 million BlackBerry devices and a 36.4 percent increase.

However, the big rises in shipments belonged to the companies in fourth and fifth place — respectively, Samsung with a 438.9 percent increase to 9.7 million devices, and HTC with a 258.3 percent rise to 8.6 million devices. Both manufacturers rely heavily on Android, although both also make Windows Phone 7 handsets.

IDC's smartphone shipment figures are slightly lower for the fourth quarter of 2010 than those of rival analyst firm Canalys, which calculated a total of 101.2 million devices had shipped. Canalys, though, also came to the same conclusion about Android's influence on the boom, noting that it has now overtaken Symbian as the most widely-shipped smartphone platform.

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