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Android OS Strengthens Smart Phone Domination

Apple iOS increases shipments while losing market share in the second quarter; Symbian and BlackBerry crumble; Windows Phone 7 inches into fifth position, well behind the leaders.

Apple's iOS may be the dominant operating system in the tablet market; but among smart phones, Android is the reigning powerhouse. And its lead is growing. In the second quarter, shipments of Android-based smart phones worldwide more than doubled from an already dominant position to capture more than two-thirds of the overall smart phone market, according to the new report from research firm IDC.

In the second quarter of 2012, shipments of Android-based handsets totaled about 104.8 million units, an increase of 106.5 percent from the second quarter of 2011, when 50.8 million units shipped. That brought Android's overall market share from 46.9 percent in Q2 2011 to 68.1 percent in Q2 2012, according to IDC's latest "Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker" report, released this week.

"Android continues to fire on all cylinders," said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Phone Technology and Trends program, in a statement released to coincide with the report. "The market was entreated to several flagship models from Android's handset partners, prices were well within reach to meet multiple budgetary needs, and the user experience from both Google and its handset partners boosted Android smartphones' utility far beyond simple telephony."

As we reported previously, Samsung was the dominant smart phone manufacturer in the second quarter, selling 50.2 million smart phones, up from 18.4 million in Q2 2011. IDC said the success of Android in the second quarter "can be traced directly to Samsung, which accounted for 44 percent of all Android smartphones shipped in 2Q12 and totaled more than the next seven Android vendors' volumes combined."

IDC also cited the availability of Android 4.0 on some handsets as a driving factor for Android's success in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, while Apple actually increased unit shipments of iOS-based phones by 27.5 percent in the second quarter, its increase was slower than the growth of the overall market of 42.2 percent. Apple shipped 26 million iPhones in the second quarter of 2012 compared with 20.4 million in Q2 2011. But it's market share dropped nearly two points from 18.8 percent to 16.9 percent.

Combined, Android and iOS accounted for a massive 85 percent of the smart phone market.

"The mobile OS market is now unquestionably a two-horse race due to the dominance of Android and iOS," said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, also in a prepared statement. "With much of the world's mobile phone user base still operating feature phones, the smartphone OS market share battle is far from over. There is still room for some mobile OS competitors to gain share, although such efforts will become increasingly difficult as smartphone penetration increases."

The operating systems that saw declines in the quarter were BlackBerry and Symbian, both of which shrank in unit shipments and shed more than half their market share.

Chart: Worldwide Smartphone OS Market Share, 2Q 201 Author: IDC

BlackBerry OS, currently in third place in terms of market share, saw unit shipments in the quarter decline by 40.9 percent, from 12.5 million units in the second quarter of 2011 to 7.4 million in Q2 2012, with market share dropping nearly seven points from 11.5 percent to 4.8 percent.

No. 4 Symbian fared even worse, dropping 62.9 percent in unit shipments from 18.3 million units in Q2 2011 to 6.8 million in Q2 2012. Its market share declined by nearly three-quarters, from 16.9 percent in Q2 2011 to 4.4 percent in Q2 2012.

No. 5 Microsoft, while still a tiny figure in the smart phone market, managed to more then double its unit shipments of Windows 7 Phone/Windows Mobile devices in the quarter, from 2.5 million units in Q2 2011 to 5.4 million in Q2 2012, an increase of about 116 percent. Its market share grew to within on point of the No. 4 slot, from 2.3 percent in Q2 2011 to 3.5 percent in Q2 2012.

"The share gains [Microsoft] made last quarter are due mostly to Nokia, which almost doubled its Lumia/Windows Phone shipments sequentially," according to IDC.

Linux saw modest growth in the quarter but fell to sixth position behind Microsoft. Shipments of Linux-powered handsets grew from 3.3 million in Q2 2011 to 3.5 million in Q2 2012, an increase of about 6.1 percent. IDC noted that Samsung is the most significant driver of Linux-based handsets but that the manufacturer's smart phones are "increasingly Android centric. In addition, Linux OS dependent vendors such as Panasonic are also migrating to Android, which contributed to the year-over-year decline."

Additional details can be found in IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

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 .

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