Android, iOS Dominate Smartphone Universe, but Samsung's the Star

Android and Apple's iOS were on 85 percent of the smartphones that shipped during the second quarter of this year, but Samsung was the real star. Its market share was greater than that of the next seven Android supporters combined.

Apple's iOS and Google's Android confirmed their dominance as leaders of the smartphone market, research firm IDC reported Aug. 8. If the pair's prowess actually still required confirmation, IDC's second-quarter numbers offered it: Together, the platforms powered 85 percent of all the smartphones that shipped during the quarter.

"Android continues to fire on all cylinders," Ramon Llamas, an IDC senior research analyst, said in a statement. "The market was [introduced] to several flagship models from Android's handset partners, prices were well within reach to meet multiple budgetary needs, and the user experience from both Google and its handset partners boosted Android smartphone utility far beyond simple telephony."

Framed another way, it was device makers Apple and Samsung that led the quarter. Or, less generously, just Samsung. Its market share for the quarter was 44 percent€”more than the next seven Android vendors' market shares combined.

Ice Cream Sandwich, Google's nickname for Android version 4.0, certainly helped, said IDC, as it was featured on a number of new handsets, including Samsung's Galaxy S III.

As for those "next seven" Android supporters, they're a "mix of companies re-establishing their strategies or growing volumes within key markets," said IDC.

HTC, for example, has conceded that it's no match for Samsung and Apple in the U.S. market and is focusing more of its efforts on China.

While calling the mobile OS market "unquestionably a two-horse race" between Android and iOS, research analyst Kevin Restivo adds that there's still plenty of room for other platforms to grow.

"With much of the world's mobile phone user base still operating feature phones, the smartphone OS market share battle is far from over," said Restivo. "There is still room for some mobile OS competitors to gain share, although such efforts will become increasingly difficult as smartphone penetration increases."

Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile continue to ever-so-slowly gain shares on their mission to make Microsoft the third major platform. During the second quarter, Windows' mobile shares increased to 3.5 percent. Its objective is expected be helped by the fourth-quarter introduction of Windows Phone 8, and even the launch of Windows 8, which will run on tablets and laptops and helped to familiarize mobile users with the looks and feel of the new OS. Canaccord Genuity analysts have forecast that Windows Phone's market share could reach 10 percent by the end of calendar year 2013, putting it firmly in the No. 3 position.

For now, between Windows Phone and its goal are the Symbian and BlackBerry platforms, both of which used to lead the market. RIM's smartphones have since been unable to win consumer attention, and since Nokia left Symbian for Windows Phone, interest in the former has fallen off. During the quarter, said IDC, Symbian's shares "sunk to a new nadir."

While second-place Apple posted double-digit growth, IDC added, "demand for Apple's flagship smartphone has cooled off, now that the device has been available since October and the rumors around the blogosphere have fueled speculation about a new design and features."

The blogosphere, as it were, recently determined that Apple will introduce its next iPhone Sept. 12 and begin shipping it Sept. 21. That should make for an interesting fourth quarter.