Global sales of Apple’s iPhone have been overtaken by the multitude of phones using Google’s Android system, which has quickly become the US smartphone market leader.
The latest evidence of Google’s rapid success in mobile comes from Gartner, the research group, which said Android’s global share of the smartphone market had leapt from 1.8 per cent a year ago to 17.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2010.
That growth came largely at the expense of Nokia and Research in Motion, which produces the BlackBerry.
Android handsets now outsell Nokia smartphones and the BlackBerry in the US.
Google’s success has provided a boost to struggling handset makers adopting Android such as Motorola and Sony Ericsson.
“We thought [Android] would be the second-largest global smartphone operating system by 2012, but we are now seeing it could be as soon as the end of this year,” said Carolina Milanesi, research vice-president at Gartner. “For a lot of companies, Android has been a godsend.”
Although the iPhone continues to gain on its rivals, the fact that it is available only from Apple and a limited number of mobile operators has constrained its growth rate compared with Android, which is free for anyone to adopt.
“Apple have gone from being the underdog and people rooting for them to seeing an increase in the level of scrutiny and criticism,” Ms Milanesi said. “Now they are seen as arrogant.”
Through their touch screens, application stores and easy web browsing, Google and Apple have reinvented the smartphone market. Nokia remained the largest mobile manufacturer in the second quarter, according to Gartner, selling 111.5m devices. But its share has fallen from 36.8 per cent to 34.2 per cent. RIM, which is entangled in arguments over security and privacy with governments around the world, is also losing market share.
But Android’s success is a mixed blessing for the mobile industry. By making its highly advanced features available to any manufacturer for no fee, Google has made it harder for device makers and operators to differentiate. For marketers and developers, the Android app store also remains less appealing than Apple’s because of its weaker payment system and wide variety of software versions, screen sizes and devices.