Worldwide smartphone sales in the third quarter of 2010 grew by 95 per cent year on year to 80.9 million, fuelled by huge gains for Android, according to new figures from Canalys.
The figure represents an increase of 41 million on the same period in 2009, as Android increased its worldwide market share to 25 per cent, closing in on Nokia's 33 per cent.
Android is now the most popular mobile operating system in the US with 43.6 per cent of the market, followed by Apple with 26.2 per cent and RIM with 24.2 per cent.
Pete Cunningham, a senior analyst at Canalys, argued that the wide variety of Android devices is driving its rapid growth, which could force prices down further next year.
"Devices from €100 to €400 can run Android, which makes it very popular but hard to differentiate as a platform. So next year vendors could drop prices, which could even drag prices down across the market," he said.
Cunningham explained that Apple is a "special case" as it relies on selling large volumes of the iPhone, and that RIM's broader range of products means that Apple will not leave the BlackBerry maker behind.
"RIM's more diverse portfolio means it can target different segments in the market, particularly in the mid-tier market, as well as introducing phones with new technology like a mix of touch screens and keypads," he said.
Cunningham added that Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 platform is a "compelling solution", and could help the company gain traction in the market. But he warned that Microsoft must not market the system as it does for PCs.
"With laptops it's hard for manufacturers like HP, Toshiba or Samsung to sell their products beyond the Windows platform, i.e. to let people know the hardware inside. But with smartphones, manufacturers and operators want to differentiate, " he said.
Samsung's Bada platform could grow rapidly next year, according to Cunningham, owing to its focus on emerging markets.
The figures are similar to those announced by IDC last week, which listed Apple as the fourth biggest mobile phone maker in terms of shipments and market share, pushing RIM into fifth place after strong third-quarter sales.
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