Gartner Says Symbian Still Leads Smartphone Race

Gartner research has found that Symbian is still the best selling smartphone OS, ahead of Android

A new research report from Gartner has clearly indicated that Symbian is still ahead of Android in the smartphone OS sales race, despite it experiencing a shrinking market share.

These findings seem to contradict the findings of Canalys last month, after it found that during the fourth quarter of last year, Android was the top selling smartphone platform worldwide, beating Symbian into second place.

“Our methodology is pretty much industry-standard methodology,” Pete Cunningham, senior analyst at Canalys told eWEEK Europe UK at that time. “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.”

Symbian Decline

Gartner’s figures found that in smartphone sales to end users by operating system, Symbian retained its number one spot with a market share figure of 37.6 percent in 2010, down from 46.9 percent market share in 2009.

Android was in second place with a market share of 22.7 percent, dramatically up from 3.9 percent in 2009. Research in Motion is third with 16 percent (down from 19.9 percent in 2009), closely followed by Apple iOS with 15.7 percent (up from 14.4 percent in 2009).

Bad news for Microsoft however, after its market share figure plummeted to 4.2 percent from 8.7 percent in 2009.

Android Growth

“Android grew 888.8 percent in 2010 and moved to the number two slot. Android sales in the fourth quarter of 2010 continued to be driven by broad availability of many high-end products from HTC (Desire range, Incredible and EVO), Samsung (Galaxy S) and Motorola (Droid X, Droid 2),” said Gartner.

And the figures made clear the scale of the challenge facing Nokia about its future operating system strategy, after Symbian’s market share dropped further in the fourth quarter of 2010 to 32.6 percent, or 32.6 million units.

“This allowed Android to overtake Nokia’s Symbian unit sales during the fourth quarter of 2010. However, the Symbian OS is also used by Fujitsu and Sharp as well as in legacy products from Sony Ericsson and Samsung. This aggregated volume kept Symbian slightly ahead of Android,” said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Gartner’s findings do tally somewhat with that of In-Stat, which last month found that Symbian was still leading the mobile operating system steeplechase. However it did predict that Android would will eventually pass it some time in the future.

Smartphone Sales

Gartner’s report also found that smartphone sales to end users were up 72.1 percent from 2009 and accounted for 19 percent of total mobile communications device sales in 2010. Nokia still leads with a 2010 market share of 28.9 percent, down from 36.4 percent in 2009. Samsung had 17.6 percent, LG 7.1 percent, RIM 3 percent, and Apple had 2.9 percent.

Gartner said that the smartphone market remains concentrated in developed markets, where buyers have more disposable income and where networks are fast enough to support smartphones’ full feature sets.

“Western Europe and North America accounted for 52.3 percent of global smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2010, with smartphones accounting for close to half of all handsets sold in these regions,” said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner.