Report: Android Leads Global Smartphone Growth Explosion

Smartphone growth continues its meteoric rise globally, with Google's Android operating system outshining all competitors, according to a new study by Gartner.

In all, the smartphone market nearly doubled between the first quarter of 2010 and 2011, from about 54 million devices sold to more than 100 million. The growth was led by Android, which went from 9.6 percent market share, equating to about 5.2 million phones, to 36 percent market share, with more than 36 million phones, in 12 months.

In the same span of time, smartphones have become a much bigger slice of the overall cell phone pie. “Smartphones accounted for 23.6 percent of overall sales in the first quarter of 2011, an increase of 85 percent year-on-year,” said Gartner's Roberta Cozza in the press release.

Android's stunning growth accounts for nearly all of that increase. For example, the only other smartphone brand to increase its market share was Apple's iOS, that powers the iPhone and iPad. Apple's growth doubled, from about 8 million to 16 million, but its share only got a mild bump, from 15.3 percent to 16.8 percent of the market.

The biggest declines were seen from Nokia's Symbian OS, which plummeted from 44 percent to 27 percent year-over-year, and Research in Motion's BlackBerry OS, which fell from about 20 percent to about 13 percent. Microsoft's market share also plunged, even though total sales were about the same. Some of those numbers will likely change over the next year, though, as Windows Phone 7 gets established in the market, and Nokia starts making Windows Phone 7 devices.

The incredible success of Android has brought with it a number of growing pains, including fragmentation of both devices and marketplaces from which to buy apps. On the positive side of that equation is the proliferation of those apps, which are a main driver of smartphone sales. The number of available Android apps is expected to eclipse iOS apps sometime this summer.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.