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11/02/2011 By http://www.edn.com ( Source: http://www.edn.com )

Android gains on Symbian

Smartphone sales surged in 2010, as did system use of Android, according to two leading research houses.

Both Gartner and IDC (International Data Corp) reported this week that number two smartphone OS Android is gaining on Symbian. The two companies did so while reporting on the full-year 2010 and Q4 smartphone markets.

In doing so, Gartner reported smartphone sales to end users were up 72.1% from 2009 and accounted for 19% of the total 1.6 billion mobile communications device unit sales in 2010. IDC reported that vendors shipped a total of 100.9 million smartphones during Q4 2010, up 87.2% from the 53.9 million smartphones shipped during Q4 2009. For the full year, IDC said vendors shipped a total of 302.6 million smartphones worldwide, up 74.4% from the 173.5 million smartphones shipped in 2009. (See data on full year, Q4, and vendors below.)

"Android continues to gain by leaps and bounds, helping to drive the smartphone market," said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's mobile phone technology and trends team, in a statement. "It has become the cornerstone of multiple vendors' smartphone strategies, and has quickly become a challenger to market leader Symbian. Although Symbian has the backing of market leader Nokia, Android has multiple vendors, including HTC, LG Electronics, Motorola, Samsung and a growing list of companies deploying Android on their devices."

While 2010 market share estimates for top handset vendor Nokia vary - Gartner pegged Nokia's 2010 share at 28.9%, down from 36.4% in 2009, while IDC put Nokia share at 33.1% in 2010, down from 39% in 2009 - it's no secret that Nokia's market share is suffering. Indeed, even the company's CEO has said that Nokia is failing to compete and losing ground to competitors including Apple.

As Nokia smartphone competitors - often Android OS users - gain the share the company is losing, Symbian has lost support. According to Gartner, Symbian's 46.9% 2009 market share was down to 37.6% in 2010. Android's share was at 22.7% in 2010, a massive increase on its 2009 share of 3.9%.

''Android grew 888.8% in 2010 and moved to the number two position," Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner, said in a statement. "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)."

She estimated that Symbian's market share dropped in Q4 to 32.6% or 32.6 million units, allowing Android to overtake Nokia's Symbian unit sales during the quarter. 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 Cozza.

Both Gartner and IDC expect continue growth for the smartphone market.

"The high-end of the market has been important to help grow the smartphone market in recent years," Llamas said. "IDC expects vendors to provide more mid-range and low-end smartphones at lower prices to reach the mass market. In the same manner, even high-end devices will become available at lower prices. This will result in greater competition and more selection for users."

"With the Mobile World Congress 2011 taking place next week, we can expect smartphones and tablets to be at center stage of the show, and a number of new application announcements such as 3D technology, improved user interfaces around touch, faster networks on LTE technology, and new forms of payments, such as near field communication available on smartphones," Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, said in a statement.

Worldwide smartphone sales to end users by operating system in 2010 (thousands of units)

Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, January 2011

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