Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Android software ran on more than half of all smartphones sold in the third quarter as consumers snapped up handsets made by Samsung Electronics Co., said researcher Gartner Inc. (IT)
The Google system accounted for 52.5 percent of smartphone sales, more than doubling its share from a year earlier, Gartner said in an e-mailed report. Even as some consumers delayed purchases to wait for Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s latest iPhone and other models, smartphone sales by volume grew 42 percent, it said.
“Android benefited from more mass-market offerings, a weaker competitive environment, and the lack of exciting new products on alternative operating systems,” Roberta Cozza, an analyst in Gartner’s European unit based in Egham, England, said in the report.
Smartphones gained one percentage point from the previous quarter to 26 percent of all mobile-phone sales. Nokia Oyj (NOK1V)’s Symbian handsets lost almost 20 percentage points from a year earlier to account for 16.9 percent of smartphones as the company shifted to Microsoft Corp. Windows Phone software on models scheduled to ship this month. Samsung, provider of the Galaxy line of Android smartphones, became the biggest smartphone maker for the first time.
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“The entry-level Android smartphones are getting better and better,” Cozza said in an interview. “This lower end is really what will be driving more growth next year.”
The global mobile handset market gained 5.6 percent in the third quarter to 440.5 million phones, Gartner said. It slowed from 35 percent growth reported a year earlier and 16.5 percent in the previous quarter. Nokia retained the top spot with a 23.9 percent market share, climbing from 22.8 percent in the second quarter. Samsung, LG Electronics Inc. (066570), Apple, and ZTE Corp. rounded out the top five vendors.
“The rate of growth in smartphones has definitely slowed down in Western Europe and the U.S.,” Cozza said in the interview. “The fatigue in demand is partly due to the economic uncertainty, but consumers also want to wait until the fourth quarter to get more from the promotions and new devices that are available now.”
Smartphone growth slowed from 74 percent in the second quarter although China and Russia continued to grow strongly, Cozza said. Gartner forecasts 50 percent growth in smartphones for the year and 11 percent growth in the handset market overall. The company is revising its European forecasts downward as smartphone sales declined 19 percent in Italy and 8 percent in Germany from the second quarter, Cozza said.
Nokia’s smartphone share fell to 16 percent from 20.9 percent in the second quarter, putting it in second place behind Samsung, which had a 20.9 percent smartphone share, according to Gartner. Apple was third with a 15 percent share.
BlackBerry handset maker Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM) declined 4.4 percentage points from a year earlier to 11 percent of the smartphone market in the quarter.
RIM unveiled two more smartphones based on the BlackBerry 7 operating system today. The BlackBerry Bold 9790 and BlackBerry Curve 9380 will compete for holiday sales with Nokia’s Lumia 800 and Lumia 710, as well as Apple’s iPhone 4S and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.
“Continued pressure is impacting RIM’s performance, and its smartphone share reached its lowest point so far in the U.S. market, where it dropped to 10 percent,” Cozza said in the report.
To contact the reporter on this story: Diana ben-Aaron in Helsinki at firstname.lastname@example.org