Android Overtakes Symbian In Smartphone Race

Android is now the top selling smartphone operating system, says research from Canalys

Google’s Android mobile operating system is now the top selling smartphone platform worldwide, beating Symbian into second place, according to research from Canalys.

According to the research, which gives Android a boost in the run-up to this month’s Mobile World Congress, Android edged ahead of  Nokia’s Symbian during the fourth quarter of last year. Despite questions over Symbian’s future, Nokia kept its position as the leading global smart phone vendor, with a share of 28 percent.

Android Overtakes Symbian

Shipments of Android-based smartphones reached 32.9 million in that quarter, while devices running Nokia’s Symbian platform trailed slightly at 31 million worldwide. Nokia kept its position as top manufacturer, Canalys told eWEEK Europe UK because Android was prevalent on so many other manufacturers’ devices.

Canalys is the first researcher to say that Android has surpassed Symbian. Only this month for example, In-Stat said that , Symbian was still leading the mobile operating system steeplechass, but it did predict that Android would will eventually pass it some time in the future.

“Our methodology is pretty much industry-standard methodology,” explained Pete Cunningham, senior analyst at Canalys. “We created estimates of how we believed the vendors have performed and the vendors themselves provided feedback on those numbers. We also talked to component suppliers, and channel partners, as well as operators and distributors to build the most accurate picture of the market.”

“The results very much reflect the momentum that Android has at the moment, with it being available on handsets from many different makers such as Samsung, HTC, LG, Sony Ericsson etc,” said Cunningham. “This is compared to Nokia that only has Symbian and eventually Meego.”

“Android has attracted a significant number of developers to the platform, and they have produced great products (apps) that rival the Apple iPad,” said Cunningham.

Canalys also pointed out that there is no slow down in the demand for smartphones. During the fourth quarter it recorded shipments of 101.2 million units, representing year-on-year growth of 89 percent.

“The final quarter took shipments for the year to fractionally below 300 million units, with an annual growth rate of 80 percent over 2009,” said the researcher.

“2010 has been a fantastic year for the smart phone market. After a difficult 2009, the speed with which the market has recovered has required real commitment and innovation from vendors and they have risen to the challenge,” said Canalys VP and Principal Analyst Chris Jones. “But vendors cannot afford to be complacent. 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.”

Nokia Troubles

Canalys found that Android had a worldwide smart phone market share of 32.9 percent, Symbian had 30.6 percent, Apple 16 percent, RIM 14.4 percent, and Microsoft with just 3.1 percent.

If correct, the numbers starkly illustrate the scale of the challenge facing Nokia. For a while now there has been consistent speculation that Nokia will adopt another mobile operating system, with Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 leading the challenge.

But more recently there have been hints that Nokia boss Stephen Elop is also considering Android.