Android overtakes Windows in smartphones

Sales of smartphones using Google’s Android operating system have overtaken Microsoft’s Windows mobile phones for the first time according to figures published on Wednesday.

Sales of Android phones, which include Google’s own Nexus One and Motorola’s Droid, accounted for just under 10 per cent of all smartphones sold globally in the first quarter of 2010, up from just 1.6 per cent last year, according to figures from Gartner, the technology research group.

In contrast, Microsoft, whose Windows Mobile operating system has been available since 2003, saw a sharp drop in market share, from 10.2 per cent a year ago to 6.8 per cent in the first three months of this year.

Android phone sales have also overtaken Apple’s iPhone in the North American market, accounting for 26.6 per cent of units sold, compared with 22.1 per cent for the iPhone.

Apple is the sole vendor of the iPhone, while several different manufacturers use the Android system and there are more than 20 phones using Android worldwide, according to Google.

However, the figures underscore just how quickly Google has been able to take a sizeable stake in the mobile phone market. The first Android phones only came to market in October 2008.

“We were always bullish about the potential of Android but it is surprising how quickly it has happened. US carriers have really pushed the advertising around Android,” said Carolina Milanesi, analyst at Gartner.

Android phone shipments increased more than eight-fold in the US year on year.

In February, Google hinted at strong growth, saying about 60,000 Android phones were being shipped every day.

Microsoft is planning to release a new operating system, Windows Phone 7, by the end of this year in an attempt to recapture market share.

Previews of the new software have been favourable, but the much-delayed Windows Phone 7 devices may simply be too late to the market to compete.

“Consumers still see Windows as a business brand,” Ms Milanesi said.

Nokia’s Symbian smartphones and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry also saw their market shares eroded. Nokia fell from 48.8 per cent of smartphone sales to 44.3 per cent, and RIM dipped from 20.6 to 19.6 per cent.

Nokia has been hurt by launch delays of a series of smartphones this year.

Overall, sales of mobile phones in the first three months of the year were 314.7m, a 17 per cent rise from the same period in 2009. It is the fastest pace of growth the industry has seen for four years.

Smartphones were again the fastest-growing segment of the market, rising 48.7 per cent to reach 54.3m units.

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