Google's Android mobile OS is now the leading smartphone platform in the world, appearing on the most smartphones shipped on a global basis.
That's according to researcher Canalys, which on Monday reported that in the fourth quarter of 2010, shipments of Google Android smartphones eclipsed those running Nokia's Symbian platform, and Google now commands a 32.9 percent share of the global market.
Nokia remains the top global smart phone manufacturer with a share of 28 percent. But the surge of Google Android, which appeared on some of the top smartphones of 2010, is writ large. Shipments of Android smartphones hit 32.9 million worldwide in the fourth quarter, while Nokia Symbian phones, previously the top market share owner, had 31 million.
That gives Google 32.9 percent of the global market -- which includes Android numbers as well as those of Google's OMS and Tapas platform variants -- compared with Nokia's 30.6 percent, Apple's 16 percent, Research In Motion's 14.4 percent and Microsoft's 3.1 percent. Google by far grew the most year-over-year, with its share jumping 615.1 percent from the 8.7 percent it controlled in the fourth quarter of 2009.
Canalys researchers also highlighted overall growth in the smartphone market and said 2011 will be an even more competitive year in the space. The fourth quarter of 2010 yielded smartphone shipments of 101.2 million units: a year-on-year growth increase of 89 percent, according to Canalys' figrues.
"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," said Chris Jones, vice president and principal analyst at Canalys, in a statement. "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."
In the U.S., BlackBerry maker Research In Motion recaptured first place among smartphone manufacturers from Apple, while HTC stayed in third place for the third consecutive quarter. Among smartphone OSes, Android phones were tops, and accounted for 12.1 million units, roughly three times shipment of phones running RIM's BlackBerry OS.
Canalys noted that Microsoft was too late to the party with its Windows Phone 7 devices, and as a result, lost smartphone OS market share in the United States, going from 8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009 to 5 percent a year later.
Canalys researchers noted that the debut of Apple's iPhone on Verizon will "dramatically" shift the balance of smartphone power in the U.S., but won't stymie Android's growth all that much.
"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," said Tim Shepherd, Canalys analyst, in a statement.