Android Storms Smartphone Market to Nip at Nokia: Gartner

Google's Android platform took the No. 2 smartphone slot worldwide behind Nokia Symbian, which shed 10 percentage points from 2009.

Google's Android operating system saw its market share surge by nearly a factor of 10 in 2010, giving it the No. 2 slot in the smartphone market behind the struggling Nokia, according to new statistics from Gartner.

Paced by Motorola's Droid devices, Samsung's Galaxy S line and HTC'S Desire, Incredible and Evo 4G, Android captured 22.7 percent of the market, up a whopping 888.8 percent from its 4 percent stake in 2009.

Market share for Nokia's Symbian platform plummeted 10 percentage points for the year, to 37.6 percent. While this is still 15 percentage points greater than Android's stake, the company has yet to successfully grab a spot at the high-end smartphone tablet.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop publicly acknowledged the company lags Android and iPhone in innovation when he said Nokia "faces significant challenges in our competitiveness and our execution." Elop is expected to reorganize his mobile unit Feb. 11, a move that may include putting Windows Phone 7 or Android for its hardware.

Gartner noted that Symbian's market share dropped further in the fourth quarter of 2010 to 32.6 percent, or 32.6 million units, allowing Android to pass Symbian's unit sales during the quarter. This finding was supported by Canalys, which said Android surpassed the leader in smartphone shipments for Q4.

Meanwhile, increased availability of Apple's iPhone 4 helped iOS hold a 16 percent stake in the smartphone market in Q4 2010. Apple sold 16.24 million smartphones in Q4, helping iOS capture the No. 4 position for the year with a 15.7 percent share, right behind RIM's Blackberry platform at 16 percent.

The company stands to boost its numbers with the availability of its iPhone 4 on the Verizon Wireless network starting Feb. 10.

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi further noted iOS is in "excellent shape. "With every iPad and iPod Touch sold, Apple increases the profile of iOS with potential iPhone buyers and strengthens its developer ecosystem."

That ecosystem includes more than 300,000 applications offered via arguably the tech market's finest application store, an area where Google is working hard to improve; the company just launched its Android Market Webstore to offer cloud-based application downloads.

Microsoft saw market share of its Windows Mobile platform halved from 8.7 percent in 2009 to 4.2 percent in 2010. The company is looking to turn its smartphone slippage around with Windows Phone 7 in 2011.

Broadly speaking, mobile device sales soared worldwide in 2010, with 1.6 billion units solid, a 31.8 percent increase from 2009. Smartphone sales to end-users were up 72.1 percent from 2009, accounting for 19 percent of total mobile-communications-device sales for the year.

Gartner expects the mobile device thirst to continue in earnest next week, as Mobile World Congress 2011 kicks off.

"We can expect smartphones and tablets to be at center stage of the show, and a number of new application announcements such as 3-D technology, improved user interfaces around touch, faster networks on LTE [long-term evolution] technology, and new forms of payments, such as near-field communication, available on smartphones," Milanesi said.

Indeed, NFC, which can enable contactless payments, is an area in which Google, Apple and RIM are expected to compete fiercely as the rivals seek to fortify their offerings for users.