Android Leads Smartphone Sales Surge in 2Q: Gartner

Smartphone sales continue to increase at a breakneck pace, according to the latest data from Gartner, and makers of Android-based devices are the clear beneficiaries as this market starts to mature and sort itself out.

This maturity is reflected in both declining average selling prices and profit margins, two statistics that researchers say reflect the dog-eat-dog competition going on for the hearts and minds of consumers looking to do more than place a voice call with their handsets.

In the second quarter, more than 61.6 million smartphones were sold, a 50.5 percent increase from the year-ago quarter. The top four smartphone operating system vendors accounted for 91 percent of all smartphone sales, with Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android-based devices enjoying the biggest surge, exploding from just under 756,000 units sold last year to more than 10.6 million this time around.

Thanks to the popularity of Android-based smartphones such as Motorola's Droid X and Sprint's HTC EVO 4 units, Android eclipsed the Apple iPhone OS for the No. 3 ranking worldwide -- behind Nokia's Symbian and Research in Motion's BlackBerry -- and No. 1 in the U.S.

Still, it's clear this market will become more cutthroat for the foreseeable future, a fact that should keep prices lower for consumers and drive application development on all mobile platforms.

"Launches of updated operating systems will help maintain strong growth in smartphones in the second half of 2010 and spur innovation," Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said in the report. "But we believe market share in the OS space will consolidate around a few key OS providers that have the most support from [carriers] and developers, and strong brand awareness with consumers and enterprise customers."

Symbian retained its title as the largest smartphone operating system in the world in the second quarter, but its manufacturers can definitely feel the heat coming from Android and Apple devices. Sales of Symbian-based smartphones totaled 25.4 million units, up from 20.9 million a year earlier, but its market share dropped from 51 percent to 41 percent.

Research in Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) clung to its No. 2 world ranking with BlackBerry sales surging from 7.8 million units in the second quarter of 2009 to more than 11.2 million this year. However, its market share slid from 19 percent to 18.2 percent.

Meanwhile, Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS devices -- chiefly, the iPhone -- checked in at fourth place with total unit sales of 8.7 million, up from 5.3 million in the second quarter last year. Its market share improved modestly from 13 percent to 14.2 percent.

By manufacturer, Nokia remained dominant, selling 111 million units, good enough for 34.2 percent of the market. Samsung, LG, RIM and Sony Ericsson rounded out the top five manufacturers.

Overall, sales of all mobile handsets rallied up 13.8 percent in the second quarter to more than 325.6 million units.

Despite the booming success manufacturers, OS developers, application developers and OEMs are enjoying, Milanesi said the news could have been even better had there not been significant component shortages, particularly of AMOLED (Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) displays.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


Android, Blackberry, iPhone, smartphones, Symbian