Android is smartphone king globally; tough fight on for No. 2 spot

IDC expects nearly 1B smartphones to ship in 2015

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While many analysts bemoan RIM's loss in market share in the past year, Llamas notes that it is still expected to see annual growth in shipments of 38% in 2011, with a 25% increase in 2012 and 10% growth as late as 2015. The main reason: BlackBerry's global strength as an early smartphone player and its ability to offer a physical Qwerty smartphone keyboard. Many business users prefer physical keyboards.

Top smartphone operating systems in the U.S. among subscribers 13+ years old.

"There's market lust for Apple's iPhone now, but there's utility offered by a BlackBerry," Llamas said. "Somebody else said it: BlackBerry lives and dies by its Qwerty keyboard." RIM will also be able to push deeper into carriers and nations outside of the U.S. and Europe, he said.

In other words, even as it loses market share compared to rivals, RIM can continue to grow.

Still, Llamas believes there's at least symbolic value in RIM's market share decline, and it could affect the company's bottom line. While BlackBerry shipments are expected to rise, bringing increased revenues to RIM, it isn't clear how profitable RIM can remain.

Application developers will want to pick the biggest OS and possibly the second-biggest OS to work with, and that might mean passing over RIM to work with Android, iOS or even Windows Phone first.

Top U.S. smartphone platforms

Platform 7/10 10/10 1/11 4/11 7/11
Google 17.0 23.5 31.2 36.4 41.8
Apple 23.8 24.6 24.7 26.0 27.0
RIM 39.3 35.8 30.4 25.7 21.7
Microsoft 11.8 9.7 8.0 6.7 5.7
Source: comScore. Market share by percentage for the three-month period ended by, U.S. subscribers 13+ years old.

RIM's potential trouble in attracting application developers is matched against the iPhone's enormous ability to do so. Apple currently boasts more than 425,000 iPhone apps, with that number rising every day, far ahead of any other OS.

"For better or worse, smartphones are app driven," Llamas said. In surveys of how people use their phones, apps are big, as are texting, Web browsing and taking photos. Using them as devices to make phone calls falls near the bottom -- perhaps the ultimate irony of the smartphone era.

"The last thing people do with these things is make a phone call," he notes. "It's the 'what else' in smartphones that's driving the market forward."

Computerworld Online Managing Editor Sharon Machlis helped gather and code data for this report.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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