Android Leads the Smartphone Pack

Customers around the world bought some 428 million mobile devices in the first quarter, a jump of nearly 20 percent over the same quarter of 2010 -- but Microsoft was nowhere close to the main beneficiaries of those sales.

The information comes from the latest report from analyst firm Gartner, which counted the global mobile device market overall and also broke out sales of smartphones.

Surprise -- they're growing at a fast clip, too.

"Smartphones continued to outpace the rest of the market, and a newly competitive mid-tier smartphone market will drive smartphones into mass adoption and accelerate this trend," said a statement that accompanied Gartner's report.

Finnish phone maker Nokia lead the pack overall with 108 million mobile devices -- including both feature phones and smartphones -- though the smartphone component of its sales remained Symbian-based, given that the company has yet to ship any devices that will grow out of its February pact to shift its smartphone operating system to Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Phone 7 (WP7).

Instead, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android dominated the smartphone operating system market, selling more than 36 million units to customers globally, up from 5.2 million in last year's first quarter to 36 percent market share. That's a shift from 9.6 percent share last year, according to Gartner.

In comparison, Symbian sales were at 27.6 million units, up from 24 million in 2010's first quarter, but an overall decline of market share from 44 percent last year to 27.4 percent in 2011's first quarter.

In firm third place is Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS. The iPhone and iPad vendor sold 16.9 million units in the first quarter for a total market share of 16.8 percent, up from 8.4 million units or 15.3 percent in 2010.

Fourth place player, Research in Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM), sold 13 million smartphones for 12.9 percent market share.

Meanwhile, bringing up a distant fifth spot, Microsoft sold far fewer WP7 devices in the quarter, according to Gartner.

"Windows Phone saw only modest sales that reached 1.6 million units in the first quarter of 2011, as devices launched at the end of 2010 failed to grow in consumer preference and CSPs (communications service providers) continued to focus on Android," the statement said.

However, the firm tempered that assessment somewhat. "In the long term, Nokia's support will accelerate Windows Phone's momentum," it said.

In April, Gartner predicted that WP7 will be in second place by 2015. Competing analyst firm IDC made a similar prediction a few days earlier.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.