Google’s Android smartphone operating system has overtaken Nokia’s Symbian to become the most popular mobile OS around.
According to research firm Canalys, Android featured in 32.9 million handsets sold in the final quarter of 2010, with Symbian trailing at 31 million.
Apple’s iPhone is in third place, notching up 16 million sales for the quarter, down slightly on the previous quarter.
RIM’s Blackberry devices also lost a small amount of market share, while Microsoft's combined figure for Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile garnered 3.1 million sales. Windows Phone 7 was released around half way through the period quoted.
In a statement, Canalys called 2010 "a fantastic year" for the smartphone market.
"After a difficult 2009, the speed with which the market has recovered has required real commitment and innovation from vendors and they have risen to the challenge," Canalys' VP and principal analyst Chris Jones said. "But vendors cannot afford to be complacent. 2011 is set to be a highly competitive year with vendors looking to use new technology, such as dual-core processors, NFC and 3D displays, to differentiate their products and maintain value."
Google OS-based smart phones were boosted by strong performances from a number of vendors, notably LG, Samsung, Acer and HTC.
HTC and Samsung together accounted for nearly 45 per cent of Google OS-based handset shipments, according to Canalys' calculations.
Former king of the mobile hill, Nokia, continued its sales lead in EMEA and Asia Pacific, but in 2010 it was overtaken by RIM in Latin America.
The United States continued its reign as the largest market in terms of shipments, at more than double the size of the Chinese smart phone market. RIM recaptured first place from Apple. HTC successfully maintained its third-place ranking in the US for the third consecutive quarter, driven by its speed to market with the latest Android updates and new Windows Phone 7 devices.
‘The US landscape will shift dramatically this coming year, as a result of the Verizon-Apple agreement,’ said Canalys Analyst Tim Shepherd. ‘Verizon will move its focus away from the Droid range, but the overall market impact will mean less carrier-exclusive deals, while increasing the AT&T opportunity for Android vendors, such as HTC, Motorola and Samsung."
Android was by far the largest smart phone platform in the US market in Q4 2010, with shipments of 12.1 million units – nearly three times those of RIM’s BlackBerry devices.
Windows Phone 7 devices appeared too late in the quarter to take full advantage of the Yuletide shopping bonanza, Canalys noted.