Android is rapidly moving into a dominant market share for smartphones. That's one of the key takeaways from a new report by industry research firm Gartner.
Called Market Share: Mobile Phones by Region and Country, 3Q12, the report measured operating system by worldwide mobile device sales. It found that Google's open source platform boosted its worldwide market share an impressive 19.9 percent over the same quarter last year, to 72.4 percent. Apple's iOS is far behind in second at 13.9 percent, which is a 1.1 percent drop from a year ago.
Struggling device maker Research In Motion occupies third place with 5.3 percent, which is nearly 6 points down from 2011's third quarter. RIM will attempt to stem its rapid erosion with the release at the end of January of the new BlackBerry 10 operating system and accompanying devices.
RIM, Bada, Windows Phone
Gartner noted that, although RIM has lost market share, it has moved up the ladder from fourth to third place while Nokia's Symbian has been sinking. Additionally, the research firm said, RIM has been moving out its inventory in preparation for BB10, which helped boost sales.
Samsung's Bada platform took fourth place with 3 percent, and Symbian, which is being phased out, is fifth at 2.6. Microsoft's platform placed sixth at 2.4 percent -- only two points above "others." The report said that Microsoft's position weakened quarter-over-quarter by nearly 1 percent because the rollout of Windows Phone 8 put a damper on demand for Windows Phone 7 devices.
Ross Rubin, principal analyst with Reticle Research, said Android's broad hardware support and wide handset selection have helped it penetrate emerging markets.
'Short Trip Down'
He pointed out that those markets "have traditionally been a strength of Nokia's," but the Finnish company's position has eroded as Symbian has rapidly faded, going from 16.9 percent market share a year ago to only 2.6 percent now. Rubin told us that Microsoft and Nokia are working to broaden the range of devices available for Windows Phone 8 in order to create a wider range of inexpensive phones that might have appeal in those countries.
In the U.S., Rubin noted that BlackBerry had been the first phone adopted in the prepaid market, because "carriers liked its efficient data usage." But now, he said, the prepaid market is dominated by Android phones, which are available in an array of prices and capabilities.
Rubin also said that one of the chief challenges to growing market share is faced by both RIM and Microsoft -- the number, quality and range of applications available for a new platform. RIM will have that issue as it transitions to BlackBerry 10, and, although Windows Phone 7 "was released about two years ago, Microsoft is still trying to close the app gap with Android" and Apple for that platform, as well as for the newly released Windows Phone 8.
For smartphone makers, he said, it's "a long trip up but a short trip down."