Google Android grabs Symbian's smartphone OS crown

All hail the mighty Android - but the Mighty Finn's not dead yet...
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor

All hail the mighty Android - but the Mighty Finn's not dead yet...

Google's Android mobile OS inched ahead of Nokia's Symbian platform last quarter to become the world's most popular smartphone operating system, according to analyst house Canalys.

Symbian's share of the smartphone market has been declining steadily in recent years - since the launch of Apple's iOS and Google's Android platform accelerated competition.

Google Android now has bigger slice of smartphone market than Symbian

Google's Android OS now has a bigger slice of the smartphone market than Symbian, said Canalys
(Photo credit: Josh P Miller/CNET)

Of the two relative newcomers, Google's open-source Android platform has been particularly successful in grabbing market share as there are no restrictions or fees for mobile makers to put it on their hardware. The reach of Apple's iOS is effectively capped as Cupertino does not sanction its use on other mobile makers' hardware.

Data from Canalys' Q4 2010 report showed shipments of Android-based smartphones reached 32.9 million in the fourth quarter, giving Android 32.9 per cent market share, while devices running the Symbian OS totalled just 31 million globally, equivalent to 30.6 per cent market share. Canalys includes Chinese flavours of the Android platform, OMS and Tapas, in its report.

iOS manufacturer Apple came third in Canalys' smartphone OS rankings, with 16 per cent market share, while BlackBerry maker RIM was fourth with 14.4 per cent share. Microsoft - which makes the Windows Phone 7 mobile OS, along with its legacy Windows Mobile platform - claimed just 3.1 per cent of the market.

Mobile makers Acer, HTC, LG and Samsung all helped boost the performance of Google's Android in the last quarter, according to Canalys, with HTC and Samsung together accounting for nearly 45 per cent of Google OS-based handset shipments.

While Symbian may have lost its smartphone OS top spot, the analyst said Nokia has retained its position as the leading global smartphone maker, with a 28 per cent share of the handset market.

The size of the global smartphone market continued to soar in the fourth quarter, with shipments of 101.2 million units representing year-on-year growth of 89 per cent.

"2011 is set to be a highly competitive year with vendors looking to use new technology, such as dual-core processors, NFC and 3D displays, to differentiate their products and maintain value," said Canalys VP and principal analyst, Chris Jones, in a statement.

In a separate report, analyst house Frost & Sullivan considered the potential market for near field communication (NFC) technology. While NFC is still in its infancy, as handsets remain rare, the tech is set for significant growth over the next four years, according to Frost & Sullivan.

The analyst predicts NFC handset shipments will reach 863 million units in 2015, representing more than 53 per cent of the overall mobile market, while the total payment value for NFC globally will reach &euro111.19bn in 2015.

Credit card company Barclaycard and mobile operator Everything Everywhere recently announced the UK's first commercial NFC handset will launch this summer.

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