As smartphone users rocket, Android ousts Symbian

The number of smartphone users worldwide is expected to exceed the one billion mark by 2013, with growth driven by ongoing competition between top tier OEMS and challengers such as Google, RIM, Apple and Microsoft, all of which are racing to create the best possible user experience at lower pricing points.

Although Symbian currently leads the market, Android will become the most popular brand in the mobile OS market and is expected to attract more than half a billion users by 2015, according to the latest forecasts from Informa Telecoms & Media.

Malik Kamal-Saadi, principal analyst at Informa, notes that Symbian was developed more than 20 years ago and as the market evolves, the architecture of this platform has increased in complexity through a number of upgrade cycles and additions of new layers. Consequently, it is now becoming very hard for Symbian to keep up with innovation and bring champion smartphones to the market in a timely fashion.

Meanwhile, the number of Android users is expected to grow very rapidly thanks to the strong support by almost all major players in the mobile industry value chain – with the exception of Nokia. In fact, this platform is currently supported by some 200+ regional mobile operators and 20 top tier vendors. Today, about 100 Android smartphone models and variants have been launched worldwide, targeting different segments of the smartphone market.

According to Informa, the number of Android smartphone users is expected to grow 78 per cent CAGR between 2009 and 2015 to reach 540 million, representing 38 per cent market share of total smartphone subscribers. The number of Android users is expected to surpass that of both RIM’s BlackBerry and Apple’s iPhone by 2011, Saadi said.

“Informa Telecoms & Media expects that the market share of Symbian, from total smartphone users, to drop significantly from 53 per cent in 2009 to 32 per cent in 2015. In fact, the platform will maintain its leading position until 2014 when it will be ousted by Android, which will become the new platform leader thereafter. In terms of sales, smartphones powered by Android are expected to surpass these of Symbian as early as 2012 with more than 142 million Android phones expected to sell that year versus 137 million for Symbian,” said Saadi.

The analyst anticipates that pressure will grow on Nokia and could push the company to consider the adoption of an alternative platform. And if Nokia joins the Android party, the support of this ecosystem by all key players could help the mobile smartphone industry to potentially commoditise its terminal software business much like what Microsoft did in the PC world. “Of course, players who have chosen to pursue a vertical approach will survive but will be addressing different niche markets,” Saadi said.

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