Android Overtakes Symbian as Top Smartphone OS: 10 Reasons Why

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2011-02-01 Print this article Print

News Analysis: Android beat Nokia's Symbian platform in the fourth quarter to become the top mobile OS in the world. But how did it do it? With strong marketing and handset-maker support.

After slowly marching its way toward the top of the smartphone OS market, Google's Android platform is now the most-popular smartphone operating system in the world, according to research firm Canalys.
The company's platform had a 33.3 percent share of all shipments in the fourth quarter of 2010, besting Nokia's 31 percent market share. It's an important day for both Google and Android handset makers. This news confirms what many have been saying for quite some time: Google's platform will dominate for the foreseeable future.

Exactly how Google was able to achieve such success isn't something that's always discussed. Much of the time, the discussion on mobile operating systems turns to Google's battle with Apple. But it should be pointed out that Android was able to capture the lead in the smartphone OS market because of several different factors that helped it attract and retain customers even as Apple continued to push out innovative and wildly popular devices.

Here's how Android reached the top of the smartphone OS market.

1. Each version gets better.

If nothing else, Android's success in 2010 was due to the average consumer's realization that the platform just keeps getting better. Android 1.x versions were nice, but needed work. With the release of Android 2.1 and Android 2.2, consumers started deriving substantially more value from the operating system. Now with Android 3.0 on its way, even more quality should find its way to the mobile operating system.

2. The phones are outstanding.

Android's success can be directly attributed to the many outstanding devices that have proven successful. The Motorola Droid X features a 4.3-inch display, an outstanding touch-screen, and greater ability to enjoy multimedia content than any other device on the market. The HTC Evo, Samsung Galaxy S smartphones and so many other Android products appeal to consumers in a big way. All these phones are helping to drive the platform's growth.

3. Multi-carrier support

One of the biggest problems with Apple's iPhone in the United States is that it has been available on a single carrier since its launch in 2007. Android, on the other hand, runs on a multitude of devices operating on all U.S. carrier networks. The result is more opportunity for consumers to pick an Android device. Although Apple seemingly didn't always agree, having a larger market on which to capitalize is extremely important to the future success of a platform.

4. Apple offers only the iPhone.

One of the key reasons Apple wasn't able to stand atop the smartphone market in the fourth quarter was that the company only offers the iPhone. Granted, it's selling the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4, but there are dozens of Android-based devices on nearly every carrier's store shelves around the world. It's tough for Apple, a company that sells two versions of one device, to compete with that.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

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