Google Android OS Boosts Worldwide Smartphone Sales: IDC Report

Worldwide smartphone sales topped 300 million in 2010, driven by sales of Google Android-based handsets.

Google's open-source Android mobile-operating system is helping push worldwide smartphone sales to new highs, according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. In the fourth quarter of 2010, vendors shipped 100.9 million smartphones, up 87.2 percent from 53.9 million during the same period in 2009.

For the full year, worldwide smartphone shipments totaled 302.6 million, up 74.4 percent from 173.5 million in 2009. Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's mobile phone technology and trends team, said Android's market penetration, helped by the numerous handset manufacturers adopting the platform, has become a cornerstone of the smartphone market's growth.

"Android continues to gain by leaps and bounds, helping to drive the smartphone market," Llamas said. "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."

Adding to the competitive landscape is the entrance of two refreshed operating systems, Symbian^3 and Windows Phone 7. "In their first quarter of commercial availability, both Symbian^3 and Windows Phone 7 ramped up quickly, just in time for the holidays," added Llamas. "By the end of the quarter, Nokia had shipped 5 million Symbian^3 units while Windows Phone 7 vendors shipped more than 1.5 million units. Now, with the holiday quarter over, both platforms will need to sustain this initial growth in the quarters to come."

Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker program, said component suppliers will help drive sustained interest in smartphones. "Mobile phone users will find compelling reasons to turn in their older models as new ones are launched with dual-core processors and near-field communication chips," he said.

IDC research suggests further gains for the smartphone market in 2011, as vendors deepen and broaden their offerings. "The high end of the market has been important to help grow the smartphone market in recent years," noted Llamas. "IDC expects vendors to provide more midrange 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."

Apple's iPhone gained more ground in the worldwide smartphone market, with shipment volume growth coming from Asia/Pacific and Japan. In addition, Apple made further inroads into the enterprise market, with more companies adding Apple to their approved smartphone list and increased development of corporate-centered applications, IDC research indicated.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion reached a new record for a single quarter in Q410, and posted nearly identical year-over-year shipment growth for both the quarter and the year. Strong interest from outside North America drove demand, with several markets posting double-digit gains, according to IDC. Meanwhile, RIM continued to enjoy market leadership in North America, but nonetheless saw mounting challenges from competitors like the iPhone and Android-based devices. Popular RIM smartphones for the quarter included the BlackBerry Torch and the BlackBerry Curve 3G.