Android Smartphone Sales Propel Mobile Market in Q3

Thanks to a nearly 100-percent increase in smartphone sales, the global market for mobile phones surged 35 percent in the third quarter, according to a new report from market researcher Gartner.

The biggest gainer in the period was Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) open source Android operating system, which saw its share of the smartphone market vault from 3.5 percent in the third quarter of 2009 to 25.5 percent this year.

Meantime, Nokia's (NYSE: NOK) Symbian, while still the leading smartphone mobile operating system, saw its share of the global market tumble from 44.6 percent to 36.6 percent over the past year, according to Gartner.

Android's stellar performance lifted the mobile operating system to the No. 2 spot in overall global sale, still trailing the fading Symbian but ahead of Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS and Research In Motion, which took the Nos. 3 and 4 spots, respectively.

End users purchased 20.5 million Android devices in the third quarter, while Symbian handsets notched sales of 29.5 million units. Apple posted sales of 13.5 million units, while Research In Motion checked in with sales of 11.9 million units.

The news of Android's surge comes at a time when users eagerly await the next version of the mobile Linux OS, dubbed Gingerbread, due out before the end of the year. Apple is also widely expected to release  iOS 4.2 this week, which will bring the iPad up to speed with the iPhone in terms of functionality, as well as provide other new features such as wireless printing capabilities.

Among all manufacturers, smartphone sales topped 81 million units globally in the third quarter, a 96 percent increase over last year. Smartphones accounted for 19.3 percent of global cell-phone sales in the period, fueling continued growth in the overall mobile-device category.

"This is the third consecutive double-digit increase in sales year-on-year, indicating that consumer demand is healthy," Carolina Milanesi, Gartner vice president, said in a statement.

While Android enjoyed impressive growth over the past year, Gartner remains bullish on Apple, both for its early successes with the iPhone in the enterprise and for boasting a lavish growth rate of 275,000 new iOS activations each day spread among the iPhone, iPad and iPad Touch devices.

"Apple's dramatic expansion of iOS with the iPad and the continuing success of the iPod Touch are important sales achievements in their own right. But more importantly they contribute to the strength of Apple's ecosystem and the iPhone in a way that smartphone-only manufacturers cannot compete with," Milanesi said.

Among device manufacturers, Apple ranked fourth with a diminutive 3.2 percent of the global market. Nokia retained the top spot by a wide margin, with 28.2 percent of the overall market, down from 36.7 percent in the year-earlier period.

Nos. 2 and 3 Samsung and LG both also saw their share of the market slip. Samsung's share dropped from 19.6 percent last year to 17.2 percent this year, while LG fell from 10.3 percent to 6.6 percent.

Kenneth Corbin is an associate editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


Android, iPhone, Apple, Gartner, mobile devices