IT Trends | Research

Android Takes Top Slot Among Smart Phones

Worldwide sales of mobile devices grew an enormous 18.98 percent in the first quarter of 2011, according to new research. That growth was dominated by smart phones, where Google's Android OS took over the lead position--beating out mobile behemoths Symbian and iOS.

Smart Phones Surge
According to market research firm Gartner, smart phone sales worldwide grew 84.88 percent, topping more than 100 million units in a single quarter. During the first quarter, Android saw nearly a sevenfold increase in shipments, easily beating out sales of Symbian-based devices to take the No. 1 slot. (Android had been the No. 4 platform in the same period in 2010.)

Total unit sales for Android were 36.27 million in the first quarter of 2011 compared with 5.23 million in the first quarter of 2010.

Despite an increase in unit sales, Symbian lost double-digit market share in the first quarter. Units increased to 27.6 million in Q1 2011 compared with 24.1 million in Q1 2010, but market share dropped from 44.2 percent to 27.4 percent in that period.

Apple, meanwhile, more than doubled its unit sales in the period. Shipments of iOS-based smart phones grew from 8.36 million in Q1 2010 to 16.88 million in Q1 2011. Market share increased 1.5 points, ending the quarter at 16.8 percent.

Other Q1 2011 highlights included:

  • Research in Motion and Microsoft both lost market share during the quarter;
  • RIM's unit sales increased in the first quarter, from 10.75 million in 2010 to 13 million in 2011;
  • RIM's market share dropped 6.8 points, ending at 12.9 percent;
  • Microsoft lost both unit sales and nearly half its market share in the first quarter, falling from a share of 6.8 percent on unit sales of 3.7 million in 2010 to a share of 3.6 percent on modestly lower unit sales of 3.66 million;
  • Windows Phone sales accounted for only 1.16 million units in the first quarter;
  • However, in the longer term, Gartner said, support from Nokia will help bolster acceptance of Windows Phone.

Gartner predicted that the dominant platforms will continue to solidify their user bases.

"Every time a user downloads a native app to their smart phone or puts their data into a platform's cloud service, they are committing to a particular ecosystem and reducing the chances of switching to a new platform," said Gartner Principal Research Analyst Roberta Cozza. "This is a clear advantage for the current stronger ecosystem owners Apple and Google. As well as putting their devices in the context of a broader ecosystem, manufacturers must start to see their smart phones as part of a computing continuum."

Total smart phone shipments reached 100.77 million in the first quarter of 2011 compared with 54.51 million in the first quarter of 2010.

Mobile Madness
Meanwhile, smart phones weren't the only mobile devices to see growth in the quarter. Overall mobile "terminal" unit shipments hit 427.85 million in the first quarter, up from 359.61 in the same period in 2010, according to the report.

Industry leader Nokia saw a drop in both unit sales and market share in the first quarter, from 110.11 million (30.6 percent market share) in 2010 to 107.56 million in 2011 (25.1 percent share). No. 3 LG (24 million units), No. 8 Motorola (8.8 million), and No. 9 Sony Ericsson (7.92 million) also experienced declines in the period.

The biggest percentage gainers included high-end phone maker HTC, which nearly tripled sales from 3.38 million units in Q1 2010 to 9.31 million in Q1 2011, gaining 1.3 market share points and ending the quarter with a 2.2 percent share.

Samsung, which also made a shift to higher-end mobile devices, saw significant gains as well. rising nearly 4 million units to 68.78 million and maintaining its No. 2 overall position (though falling 1.9 points in market share to 16.1 percent).

Apple ended the quarter in fourth position with a 3.9 percent market share, just above No. 5 RIM with a 3 percent share. Apple had been in seventh position at this time last year. RIM was in fourth.

Gartner's Cozza explained that the overall growth would have been even more significant but for delays in consumer purchasing owing to announcements of impending product releases that were made in the first quarter. The disruption caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, meanwhile, is expected to be less significant than previously anticipated.

"Overall, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan will have a smaller effect on the mobile communication devices market than initially anticipated," according to information released by Gartner. "There is currently about six to seven weeks worth of inventory of finished products in the channel and about four weeks worth of inventory for components. Gartner estimates that manufacturers' sales into the channel will drop in the second quarter of 2011, while sales through to consumers will be flat."

Gartner's complete report, "Market Share Analysis: Mobile Devices, Worldwide, 1Q11," is available for $1,295. It can be accessed via Gartner's research portal.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .