The Android surge goes global

The surge in Android phone adoption isn't just confined to the United States, research firm Gartner has found.

The definitive Android smartphone guide

According to Gartner's latest data on the global smartphone market, sales of Android phones have grown more than nine-fold in the past year, rising from 575,000 units in the first quarter of 2009 to 5.2 million units in the first quarter of 2010. Android-based phones have similarly seen their share of the smartphone market rise sharply, going from 1.6% of the market in the first quarter of 2009 to 9.6% of the market in the first quarter of 2010.

The latest Gartner research on global smartphone sales confirms that Android is experiencing rapid growth worldwide and not just in the United States. A study released earlier this month by the NPD Group found that Android-based devices actually outsold Apple iPhones in the United States for the first time in the first quarter of 2010. Android has scored some relatively big hits over the past year, high-profile debuts for smartphones such as the Motorola Droid, the Samsung Moment and the HTC myTouch 3G have helped raise its stature in the smartphone market.

As impressive as Android's rise has been, however, the Google-produced open-source operating system still ranks only fourth in terms of sales and market share. Symbian is still the king of smartphone operating systems, as Symbian-based devices moved more than 24 million devices in the first quarter of 2010, good for 44% of the total market. Research in Motion's BlackBerry OS came in a distant second with 10.5 million devices shipped in the first quarter of 2010, followed by Apple's iPhone OS, with 8.4 million devices shipped in the first quarter of 2010.

And while Android has certainly come on strong over the last year, sales of Apple's iPhone have been similarly impressive, especially considering that Android is on a multitude of devices while the iPhone OS only appears on one. In the first quarter of 2010, Apple sold 8.4 million iPhones, more than double the 3.9 million iPhones it sold in the first quarter of 2009. Apple now has 2.7% of the overall mobile phone market share, making it the seventh-largest handset vendor in the world.

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi says that the next few months will be a key for Apple, as its new version of the iPhone is likely to determine whether it will continue to expand its market share.

"The second quarter of 2010 will be a very important one for Apple," she says. "We expect that Apple will present its new iPhone in June during its Worldwide Developers Conference, which will be the first to feature the latest release of the iPhone OS that includes welcome improvements for developers and users, such as multitasking."

Overall, smartphones accounted for 17.3% of all mobile phones sold over the past quarter, up from 13.6% in the first quarter of 2009. Gartner predicts that smartphones will continue to take an ever larger share of the mobile phone market, as the firm projects that 42% of all mobile phones sold in 2014 will be smartphones.

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