Smartphone sales for 2010 exceeded earlier predictions to grow by 74 per cent, according to new figures from IDC.
Sales were driven by new models aimed at the middle and low end of the market, along with strong Android performance and an increasing replacement market as advanced users upgraded to multi-core processors and near field communication chips.
Nokia remains the top global vendor with around a third of the market, followed by RIM with 16.1 per cent and Apple with 15.7 per cent.
Samsung and HTC were in fourth and fifth positions, but logged the fastest sales growth at 318 per cent and 165 per cent respectively.
Samsung and HTC's support for Android has been a major growth driver for both vendors, and the Google platform is likely to overtake Symbian, according to Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's mobile phone technology and trends team.
"Android continues to gain by leaps and bounds, helping to drive the smartphone market. It has become the cornerstone of multiple vendors' smartphone strategies, and has quickly become a challenger to market leader Symbian," he said.
"Although Symbian has the backing of market leader Nokia, Android has multiple vendors, including HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung and a growing list of companies deploying Android on their devices."
Llamas noted that Symbian will also come under attack from Symbian^3 and Windows Phone 7, both of which are showing solid growth. Nokia has shipped five million Symbian^3 units, and Microsoft has shipped more than 1.5 million Windows Phone 7 units.
The decline of Symbian as the world's most popular smartphone platform may already have happened, according to recent figures, prompting reports that Nokia is looking to strategic partnerships with Microsoft and others, rather than continuing to develop the platform.
Meanwhile, sales of Android smartphones in the US outpaced Apple's iPhone platform in the last quarter of 2010, according to monitoring firm comScore.
Android ownership rose by over seven per cent to 28.7 per cent of the smartphone market, compared to Apple's 25 per cent. RIM was the market leader with 31.6 per cent, but lost sales much faster than other handset vendors over the quarter.
However, Android's supremacy is likely to be short-lived, according to Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Research.
The iPhone 5, expected in May or June, will give Apple a sales jump, and the Verizon iPhone will make a huge difference, he explained.
"The Verizon iPhone increases Apple's available market by up to two times, even before the iPhone 5 ships," Enderle told V3.co.uk.
It is expected that the iPhone 5 will be able to use LTE and HSPA+ networks, which will also open up new markets.
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