Android to challenge Symbian for smart phone dominance, report says

While Google's Android OS has shown considerable growth this year, research firm Gartner claims its best days may be yet to come. The firm says that by 2014, as many as 259 million units could ship, coming very close to overtaking Symbian's expected shipments of 264 million that year.

In 2010 Android is expected to ship about 47.5 million devices, slightly ahead of RIM's 46.9 million: Apple is expected to ship about 41.5 million units. Nokia's Symbian will far outpace its competitors, as it is expected to ship some 107.7 million devices. If Gartner's forecast is to be believed however, this year is Nokia's last for such dominance.

By 2014, sales between Symbian and Android would make up about 60 percent of all sales. Apple's iOS would come in third with about 15 percent of the market, and RIM fourth at 11.7 percent.

Even with a far smaller share, Apple would still be doing quite well: it would sell about 130 million devices per year, in an overall market with sales of 875 million devices yearly. Perspective may be the best way to measure just how many phones this would be: since launch, Apple has sold 130 million devices in total.

"We believe that market share in the OS space will consolidate around a few key OS providers that have the most support from [carriers] and developers and strong brand awareness with consumer and enterprise customers," analyst Roberta Cozza said. Cozza's statements are an obvious nod to Android's multi-carrier, multi-manufacturer strategy.

While Apple has recently become much more apt to sign multiple carriers in the same market than it did when the phone first launched in 2007, it still is single carrier in its biggest market, the US. Its decision to stay exclusive to AT&T for so long may turn out to have cost it market share it may not get back had it partnered with another large carrier like Verizon.

Gartner's survey has Apple's market share peaking in 2011 at 17.7 percent, then falling to 14.9 by 2014. Much of its market share loss is due to Android's rapid growth. Another loser in this survey is Windows Mobile, which will fall to only 3.9 percent of the market by 2014.

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