Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system continued its steady march up the worldwide smartphone charts in the third quarter, reaching 52.5 percent, according to Gartner.
Android, which more than doubled its smartphone pie from Q3 2010, took share from all of its rivals.
The platform bested Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) Symbian platform at 17 percent, down from 36 percent a year ago; Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS, which dipped to 15 percent from 16.6 percent; and Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) 11 percent plot, which is down from 15.4 percent in Q3 2010.
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), which is betting big on its Windows Phone 7 platform and Nokia's ability to sell a lot of Windows Phone handsets in 2012, dropped from 2.7 percent to just 1.5 percent.
"Heavy marketing from both Nokia and Microsoft to push the new Lumia devices should bring more improvement in the fourth quarter of 2011," Gartner noted. "However, a true turnaround won't take place until the second half of 2012."
Android helped lead the 42 percent year-over-year boost in smartphone sales to 115 million units in the third quarter, as smartphone sales made up 26 percent of all mobile phone sales.
Samsung was the biggest beneficiary on the Android front, tripling sales to reach 24 million end users en route to becoming the No. 1 smartphone manufacturer worldwide, beating even Nokia in core markets such as Western Europe and Asia.
Gartner attributed this to the strong performance of Samsung's Galaxy smartphones, which have sold more than 30 million units to date, including over 10 million of the new Galaxy S II handsets, which feature faster processors and brighter displays packed into a thin form factor.
Apple shipped 17 million iPhones, down nearly 3 million units from the second quarter of 2011 because the company didn't roll out its iPhone 4 until Oct. 14, missing the bulk of Q3 sales.
"Android benefited from more mass-market offerings, a weaker competitive environment and the lack of exciting new products on alternative operating systems such as Windows Phone 7 and RIM," Gartner analyst Roberta Cozza wrote. "Apple's iOS market share suffered from delayed purchases as consumers waited for the new iPhone."
Indeed, Cozza said some consumers didn't upgrade their phones in the third quarter because they were waiting for promotions on premium smartphones ahead of the holiday shopping season. The iPhone 4 smashed sales records in its opening weekend.
Cozza said the iPhone 4S, 4 and 3GS will capture share from Android manufacturers in Q4 this holiday season. Those devices will be countered by Samsung's Galaxy S II and Galaxy Nexus smartphones, the first handset with the Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" build, as well as Motorola Mobility's ultra-thin Droid Razr and Droid Bionic models.
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