Android smartphone sales top 20 million in Q3

The Apple iPhone is still selling well, but can't keep pace with Android's growth

Smartphone sales for the third quarter almost doubled compared to last year, driven by explosive growth in sales of Android phones, although Symbian remained the best-selling operating system. Sales of Apple's iPhone also grew strongly, according to figures from Gartner.

With 81 million units sold worldwide in the third quarter, smartphones accounted for around one-fifth of all phones sold to end users, market researcher Gartner said Wednesday.

Symbian sold in 29.5 million smartphones in the third quarter, compared to 18.3 million a year earlier. Android soared into second place with 20.5 million, up from just 1.4 million a year earlier, halving the distance that separates it from Symbian. Android's share of the smartphone market jumped to 25.5 per cent from just 3.5 per cent a year earlier, while Symbian's slipped to 36.6 per cent from 44.6 per cent.

The gap between Symbian and Android will continue to shrink during the end-of-year holiday shopping season, according to Gartner research vice president Carolina Milanesi. Symbian will hold on to the top spot, though, helped by lower prices, she predicted. Component shortages are also likely to hit Android harder than Symbian, she said.

Apple delivered a stellar performance in the third quarter of 2010, and could have done even better were it not for ongoing supply problems, Gartner said. Apple sold 13.5 million iPhones, almost double the 7 million it sold a year earlier, although its share of the mobile operating system market slipped slightly, to 16.7 per cent from 17.1 per cent a year earlier, leaving iOS in third place.

The BlackBerry OS slipped to fourth place as Research In Motion (RIM) failed to keep pace with the market. It sold 11.9 million smartphones in the third quarter, compared to 8.5 million a year earlier.

Microsoft's Windows Mobile rounded out the top five smartphone operating systems. Its market share dropped to 2.8 per cent as Microsoft waits for Windows Phone 7 to turn around its fortunes.

Worldwide sales of all kinds of phones, not just smartphones, totalled 417 million in the third quarter, up 35 per cent on a year earlier, according to Gartner.

The top five phone makers are now Nokia, Samsung, LG, Apple and RIM.

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