Android became the most popular smartphone operating system worldwide in the first quarter of 2011, while Apple saw its share of the market grow, according to a report Gartner issued Thursday on sales of mobile phones to end users.
Overall mobile phone sales totaled 427.8 million units in the first quarter of 2011, an increase of 19 percent from the same period in 2010. Smartphone sales added up to 100.8 million, compared to 54.5 million in Q1 last year. They now account for 23.6 percent of mobile phone sales, an increase of 85 percent since the first quarter of 2010, according to Gartner.
Android is leaving other operating systems in the dust, growing its market share in one year from 9.6 percent to 36 percent, Gartner reported. Its lead over Symbian is now almost 10 million as it ran on 36.3 million smartphones sold versus Symbian's 27.6 million. Symbian's market share, on the other hand, has dropped from 44.2 percent to 27.4 percent. Sales of smartphones based on the operating system increased, but couldn't keep up with Android's phenomenal growth.
While Apple was the fourth-place finisher in the quarter's smartphone rankings, it sold 16.9 million units to end users worldwide, more than doubling sales of its iPhones year-on-year, helping the company's market share grow from 2.3 percent to 3.9 percent.
Apple's lead over Research In Motion, which is in fifth place, is now almost 4 million phones. A year ago, RIM was up by 2.4 million units. Still RIM's sales grew from 10.8 million to 13 million, and its market share remained at 3 percent.
Newly joined partners Nokia and Microsoft are both struggling. Nokia is still the largest phone manufacturer. The company sold 107.6 million phones, but its market share dropped from 30.6 percent to 25.1 percent, which is its lowest point since 1997.
Windows Phone had only modest sales that reached 1.6 million units in the first quarter of 2011, as devices launched at the end of last year failed to catch much consumer interest and operators continued to focus on Android, according to Gartner.
Nokia hasn't yet said when its Windows smartphone will arrive. The company won't divulge ship dates until closer to when the first models arrive, but the pressure is on to deliver the devices this year, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said when the company announced its first quarter results.
In the long term, Nokia's backing will accelerate Windows Phone's momentum, Gartner wrote. Nokia needs to make consumers forget that they are buying a Windows phone, because the current perception is that Microsoft is something dad uses at work, according to Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner.
Samsung continues to be the second largest phone maker in the world. The company increased unit sales from 64.9 million to 68.8 million units, but still had to watch its market share slip by almost 2 percentage points to 16.1 percent. With the help of high-end smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S II and an expansion into emerging markets with touch and dual-SIM devices, which are becoming more popular, the company's forward momentum is expected to continue.
In the overall third spot LG Electronics is struggling, with a drop in both sales and market share. The company sold 24 million phones, which gave it a 5.6 percent market share, compared to 27.2 million and 7.6 percent in the first quarter of 2010.
ZTE and HTC -- which ranked in sixth and seventh in overall unit sales -- also had good first quarters.
ZTE sold 9.8 million phones, up from 6.1 million in the first three months of 2010. The phone maker's market share increased from 1.7 percent to 2.3 percent.
HTC recorded "a very strong" first quarter with 9.3 million phones sold, compared to 3.4 million a year ago, according to Gartner.
A strong high-end smartphone portfolio helped HTC perform well with all major US operators, and in the first quarter of 2011 it became the second most popular smartphone manufacturer in the region, overtaking Research In Motion, Gartner said.
HTC's worldwide overall market share expanded from 0.9 percent to 2.2 percent.
Two companies that didn't fare well during the first quarter were Motorola and Sony Ericsson, which ranked in eighth and ninth place in overall unit sales, both passed by HTC.
Motorola's sales dropped to 8.8 million from 9.6 million, and market share fell to 2.1 percent, compared to 2.7 percent last year.
Sony Ericsson's sales dropped by about 2 million phones to 7.9 million, and its market share has now shrunk to 1.9 percent.
Rounding out the top 10 is Huawei, which isn't doing as well as its fellow Chinese competitor ZTE. But it sold more phones than it did in last year's first quarter -- 7 million versus 5.2 million -- and its market share grew by 0.1 percentage points to 1.6 percent.