Research firm Ovum published a report Thursday predicting that Google’s Android operating system, rather than Apple’s iOS, will become the most widely adopted mobile platform on the planet, accounting for nearly half of the smartphone market by 2017.
"Android will dominate the smartphone market over the next five years," said Adam Leach, principal analyst at London-based Ovum, in the report. "While Apple has defined the smartphone market since it introduced the iPhone in 2007, we’re now seeing a sharp rise in the shipment volumes of Android, signaling its appeal to leading handset manufacturers."
According to Ovum, Android in 2011 was found on 44 percent of the world’s smartphones -- quite a jump from the 17 percent it claimed in 2010. But by 2017, that number is expected to grow even more, with Google’s homegrown OS pulling ahead to capture 48 percent of the market.
Ovum didn’t offer any specifics as to what, exactly, is fueling Android’s growth. But other research firms have suggested that the range of handset makers choosing to adopt the platform, including Samsung, Motorola and LG, has led to greater adoption rates than Apple’s iOS, which runs exclusively on the iPhone.
Samsung, in particular, has prompted much of Android’s growth. The Korean tech giant reported first-quarter profit of $5.15 billion last week, which it said was driven primarily by sales of its Android-based Galaxy smartphones. Samsung didn’t disclose exactly how many smartphone units it shipped, but research firm Strategy Analytics pegged its total handset shipment to be around 93.5 million.
Depending on how many of these handsets were smartphones, this number could place Samsung ahead of rival Apple, which sold 35.1 million in its first quarter.
But that doesn’t mean Apple is losing its footing. Ovum said that while Android is poised to be the clear-cut winner by 2017, Apple will hold tightly to the second-place spot with 27 percent of the market.
What’s more, Ovum predicted Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS will see a jump in adoption over the five-year period. Through its partnership with Finnish handset maker Nokia, Microsoft’s mobile platform is projected to account for 13 percent of the global market.
"We expect Microsoft, despite its slow start, to have established Windows Phone as a relevant smartphone platform by 2017," Leach said.
Ovum also predicted that Research In Motion’s BlackBerry platform, the former industry leader struggling to stay relevant in an Android and iOS-dominated market, will still manage to grasp 10 percent of the smartphone market in five years.