Android tops smartphones; WP7 trails others in various Q4 reports

WP7 update rumored for Feb. 7 could help sales

Several analyst reports on Monday showed the Android OS dominating globally for the first time in the fourth quarter in smartphones and gaining ground on the iPad in tablets.

At the low end of the spectrum, Windows Phone 7 (WP7) didn't even gain more share than its predecessor Windows Mobile in the fourth quarter, according to a report from The NPD Group. Windows Mobile phones are still sold by all the four major U.S. Carriers.

The WP7 rankings came out amid online speculation that the mobile OS will get an update next Monday to bring copy-and-paste functionality and other improvements to the phones.

Android became the bestselling smartphone OS with 32.9 % of the global market and 33.3 million phones shipped, Canalys reported. That was ahead of Nokia's Symbian with 30.6% of the market, or 31 million phones shipped, and double Apple's 16% market share (with 16.2 million phones shipped). Research in Motion had 14.4% of the market and shipped 14.6 million phones, and Microsoft had 3.1%, shipping 3.1 million phones.

In total, Canalys said 101.2 million smartphones shipped in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Meanwhile, NPD said that in the U.S., Android took 53% of the sales in the fourth quarter. The Apple iPhone had 19% of sales -- the same as RIM -- Windows Mobile had 4% and WP7, which debuted mid-way in the fourth quarter, had 2%. Palm WebOS phones also had 2%, NPD said.

The Android impact in tablets came at the expense of the iPad, according to U.K.-based Strategy Analytics. It found that 9.7 million tablets shipped in the fourth quarter globally, with the iPad accounting for 75% of those sales and Android grabbing 22%. The Samsung Galaxy Tab, running Android, was a big factor in Android's growth, appearing in the fourth quarter in many countries.

Samsung said it sold 2 million in the quarter.

WP7 hit the market in devices at the "epicenter of competition between iOS and Android at AT&T," said Ross Rubin, an analyst at NPD. WP7 is also sold by T-Mobile USA.

Even though Android phones in aggregate outdid the iPhone, the iPhone 4 was the top-seller in the U.S. in the fourth quarter, NPD said. That put it ahead of the Motorola Droid X and the HTC Evo 4G, both of which run Android. The Apple iPhone 3GS came in fourth, followed by Motorola Droid 2, NPD said.

Rubin said WP7 needs to offer exclusive capabilities and "must close the feature gap" with other devices. A Feb. 7 update for Wp7 update seems logical, coming a week before Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is set to speak at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Some sites have estimated that about two million WP7's have shipped, although they might not yet have been sold. But that figure would likely be a high estimate if Windows Mobile devices have outsold WP7, as NPD claims for the U.S., and if three million Windows Mobile and WP7 phones were sold in the fourth quarter, as Canalys claims.

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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