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Android market share soars at expense of Symbian


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Wide availability helps Google OS grow by over 800 per cent in 12 months

Android's market share grew by a colossal 888 per cent over the past 12 months, placing it hot on the heels of the Symbian platform, which saw its lead cut by half, according to new figures from Gartner.

Symbian devices were outsold by Android handsets during the fourth quarter of 2010, but the use of the Nokia-owned operating system in Fujitsu, Sharp and legacy products from Sony Ericsson and Samsung allowed the platform to retain its lead, explained Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner.

"Android sales in the fourth quarter of 2010 continued to be driven by the broad availability of many high-end products from HTC (Desire range, Incredible and EVO), Samsung (Galaxy S) and Motorola (Droid X, Droid 2)," she said.

Meanwhile, RIM's BlackBerry operating system saw its market share decrease by four per cent, giving it just 0.3 per cent more share than Apple's iOS.

Microsoft also continued to struggle in the mobile market, despite launching Windows Phone 7 at the back end of 2010. The platform was used in just 4.2 per cent of devices at the end of 2010, but is predicted to be the fastest growing platform this year.

Smartphone sales were up by over 70 per cent last year, and accounted for a fifth of the 1.6 billion mobile phones sold, showing that they have penetrated the mainstream market.

Smartphone sales remain concentrated in markets where buyers have more disposable income, and where networks are fast enough to support the full features.

Western Europe and North America accounted for 52.3 per cent of global smartphone sales in the fourth quarter, Gartner noted.

Despite Nokia's global mobile phone market share tumbling by 7.5 per cent, the Finnish manufacturer still managed to sell over 180 million more devices than closest rival Samsung, which saw its share drop by 1.9 per cent.

However, Gartner noted that Nokia has reached a critical point, and that the company's future rests on the strategy to be unveiled on 11 February and its ability to execute on any new partnerships.

Apple, RIM, ZTE and Huawei were the only manufacturers in the top 10 to increase their market share year on year. Apple sold 46.6 million handsets last year, representing 87.2 per cent growth year on year.

The increase in iPhone sales was put down to expansion into new countries and the ending of exclusive deals. This second factor in particular made Apple devices more affordable by encouraging competitive tariffs and data plans.

RIM, meanwhile, sold 47.5 million units and saw its market share rise by just 0.2 per cent. Fourth quarter sales in Indonesia, the UK and the Netherlands were highlighted as particularly strong.

The increased BlackBerry sales were down to aggressively priced prepaid offerings, and the steady uptake of the BlackBerry Messenger service, according to Gartner.

The analyst firm expects a number of smartphones and tablets to be announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona later this month, but warned that shortages of components, including camera modules, touch-screen controllers and Amoled screens, could be a problem for manufacturers over the coming year.

"This situation will not ease until at least the second half of 2011. Shortages will be a long-term consideration for mobile device vendors, because other fast-growing categories of connected consumer devices, such as media tablets, are competing for the same components," said Milanesi.

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