Google’s Android operating system is now the world’s largest platform for smartphones, passing Nokia’s Symbian software, according to research firm Canalys.
The report said the Mountain View, Calif.-based company shipped 32.9 million Android-based phones in the last quarter for around 32.5 percent percent of the market, stealing the lead from Nokia, which sold 31 million Symbian phones. Apple ranked third with 16.2 million iPhones sold, giving it a 16 percent global smartphone share. BlackBerry maker Research in Motion and Microsoft came in fourth and fifth with 14 percent and 3 percent of the market, respectively.
Global shipments of mobile phones overall grew 89 percent to 101.2 million in the October-December period.
While Android emerged as the worldwide smartphone leader, other global markets showed differences among the platforms. For instance, Nokia continues to lead in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific, but it was surpassed by RIM in Latin America, were a million more BlackBerry devices were sold in the fourth quarter.
In the U.S., the picture was a little different as well, where RIM continues to dominate the market. The BlackBerry maker recaptured first place from Apple, which experienced a usual seasonal dip before the launch of its new iPhone in June. RIM, meanwhile, benefited from shipments of its BlackBerry Torch, while HTC successfully maintained its third-place ranking, driven by its speed to market with the latest Android updates and new Windows Phone 7 devices.
Since its launch in 2009, Android has established itself as the main competitor to Apple’s iPhone and iPad products. By providing various phone makers and carriers with its open-source platform for free, Google has propelled Android into the world’s number-one smartphone operating system with mobile search usage jumping tenfold in one year alone.
Building on Android’s continued success, Google is expected to release a new version of Android, known as “Ice Cream Sandwich,” later this year, which has a strong focus on mobile this year. The company recently announced intentions to increase staffing and resources in the emerging mobile app market, and it is also making significant moves into mobile-payment services such as its acquisition of secretive startup ZetaWire.