Android tops ailing Nokia's Symbian

Google's mobile operating system claims a third of the global market

Nicole Kobie
31 Jan 2011

Google's Android has overtaken Nokia's Symbian as the best selling mobile operating system.

In the last quarter of 2010, manufacturers shipped 32.9 million Android devices, while Nokia shipped 31 million Symbian handsets globally, according to analyst firm Canalys.

Android now holds a third of the market, compared to 31% for Nokia. Apple held steady from the same quarter in 2009 with 16.2% market share, while RIM slid from 20% to 15%. Microsoft fell from 7.2% to 3.1% last year, as it unveiled its new OS, Windows Phone 7.

It's gone from nowhere to number one in the space of two years

Android first arrived two years ago, in the form of Google's G1 handset. "It's gone from nowhere to number one in the space of two years, which is pretty impressive," Canalys analyst Pete Cunningham told PC Pro.

He said Android hit the market at just the right time, when the success of the iPhone drove rival manufacturers to look for an operating system to take on Apple.

"Android offered a platform that was pretty competitive to the iPhone, and gave the opportunity to vendors like Samsung and HTC to be able to compete with Apple," Cunningham said.

"Android has certainly benefited from the timing and the fact that the established platforms such as Symbian and Windows Mobile couldn't compete with the Apple iPhone."

Canalys expects Android to keep on growing - at twice the rate of its competitors in 2011. "One of the reasons is 2011 is going to see a lot of growth from smartphones in the mid and low tier... and a lot of vendors are going to be using Android to do that," he said.

The lower-end of the market has long been Nokia's stronghold, but despite posting a drop in profits last week, the struggling mobile firm retains solid market share, Cunningham said. "Nokia's still growing well [in terms of units sold], it's growing 30% year-on-year," he said. "Nokia's not going backwards, it's just growing at a slower rate than the rest of the market."

Indeed, he noted Nokia is still the number one handset manufacturer. "You've got lots of vendors shipping on Android, so that's why Android is the biggest platform, but Nokia is still the number one smartphone vendor," said Cunningham.

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