Mobile phones running Google Android software extended their market share lead over Apple's iPhone during the fourth quarter of 2011, market research outfit Gartner says.
Apple had a boom quarter on the back of the new iPhone 4S, selling more than 35 million handsets, double that of the year-ago quarter.
Yet Android-based smartphones (made by Samsung, Motorola, Sony, HTC, Huawei, LG and others) also more than doubled sales to maintain their collective majority market share.
The Android camp's fragmentation did mean that Apple registered the highest sales of any single smartphone maker.
And, like a recent IDC survey, Gartner found Apple is now number three in the cellphone market as a whole.
Apple and Android's success was at the expense of BlackBerry maker RIM and Nokia, whose smartphone share halved over the period (although it is in the process of mounting a fightback with its new Microsoft Windows-based handsets that will be released in New Zealand next month).
Microsoft New Zealand country manager Paul Muckleston told NBR that so far Windows Phone smartphones have been a hit with a niche audience. Nokia was still the largest mobile phone maker overall (see second table). The Nokia-Microsoft partnership would help Microsoft's mobile software pushing into the mainstream, and revive Nokia's smartphone fortunes.
With the three-way fight between Apple, Android and Nokia/Microsoft helping to grow the smartphone market overall, the phone companies win either way.
Global smartphone sales to end users reached 115 million units in the third quarter of 2011, up 42% from the third quarter of 2010, Gartner said.
Nokia's Windows Phone-based Lumia series has sold more than 1 million since its November launch in Europe, Nokia Australia-New Zealand MD Chris Carr told NBR - still modest compared to the numbers clocked by Apple and Android, but not bad from a cold start.
ABOVE: Smartphone sales (000s) by operating system software, fourth quarter 2011. Click to enlarge. Android = Google, iOS = Apple, Research in Motion = BlackBerry maker RIM. Bada software is used by Samsung, although the company centres its main smartphone effort around Android. Source: Gartner.
Click table to enlarge.