Android overtakes Symbian in smartphone OS rankings

The Google-backed Android operating system overtook Nokia’s Symbian during the fourth quarter of 2010 to become the leading platform in the smartphone segment according to market analyst firm Canalys. Shipments of Android devices reached 32.9 million by Canalys’ estimation, with Symbian trailing on 31.0 million. Symbian’s performance keeps Nokia in first position among the vendors, however, with 28 per cent market share in the top tier, the analyst said.

The increasing popularity of smartphones saw segment shipments grow by 89 per cent to 101.2 million units for the quarter, pushing the number for 2010 as a whole to just shy of 300 million units.

Android has benefited from the allegiance of a number of key vendors, LG, Samsung, Acer and HTC chief among them, Canalys said. Shipments for these four players were up 4,127 per cent, 1,474 per cent, 709 per cent and 371 per cent respectively year on year, with HTC and Samsung responsible for almost 45 per cent of Android shipments for the quarter.

“2010 has been a fantastic year for the smart phone market. 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 Canalys VP and principal analyst Chris Jones. “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.”

Android could be set to enjoy a further boost this year if a widely anticipated shift in OS strategy from Nokia comes to pass. New CEO Stephen Elop, a software specialist by trade, is expected to soon put his stamp on company direction, with the company’s long term fidelity to Symbian likely to be brought to an end.

Nokia will hold a strategy and financial day in London on February 11th, where Elop is expected to announce the firm’s new directions. At the release of its most recent financial results late last month, Elop said: “Nokia faces some significant challenges in our competitiveness and our execution. In short, the industry changed, and now it’s time for Nokia to change faster.” He added: “In addition to great device experiences we must build, capitalise and/or join a competitive ecosystem. The ecosystem approach we select must be comprehensive and cover a wide range of utilities and services that customers expect today and anticipate in the future.

While the momentum that Android already enjoys would make it a likely choice for Nokia, Elop’s familiarity with Microsoft could see the Finnish vendor adopt WP7 as well, or instead of, the Google-backed OS.

Worldwide smart phone market

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