Google is enjoying one of the best anniversary presents ever: the astonishing ascendancy of Android to the top of the smartphone OS heap, with 75 percent of worldwide market share—a feat managed in just four years. Now, three of every four smartphones sold recently runs on Android. Moreover, IDC's release of third-quarter 2012 worldwide smartphone shipments shows that Android is still gaining on rivals iOS, Blackberry, Symbian and Windows Phone. Google's open-source OS jumped from 57.5 percent share in the same period last year for a year-over-year 91.5 percent growth rate, nearly double that of the industry as a whole. A year ago, I was writing about Android hitting 52.5 percent market share in the third quarter, based on stats published by Gartner. That was a little bit lower than what IDC reported for Android during the same period, but the trend was similar: Android and iOS continue to grow, while Symbian and Blackberry are losing share year by year. A total of 136 million Android devices sold in the third quarter, of 181 million total. Apple shipped iOS devices accounting for 14.9 percent of the total in the period, but the percentage may well rise because iPhone 5 was just released in September. For the remaining Blackberry and Symbian fans out there, these stats reveal that users are quickly changing to other devices. In just one year Blackberry fell 5.2 percentage points to 4.3 percent market share, and Symbian slumped 12.3 percentage points to just 2.3 percent share. I should also mention the small increase of the Windows Phone/Windows Mobile OS, which managed to reach 2 percent market share, up from 1.2 percent a year earlier. It's encouraging, but not anywhere near what Microsoft and other analysts expected.
As to why Android is still gaining market share, it's important that Android is an open-source mobile OS that was adopted by a large number of OEMs and that's becoming more and more flexible and stable all the time. On the other side, iOS is developed and adopted only by Apple. Some say Apple is losing market share just because iOS has the same interface it had when it was released, while Android continues to be upgraded and is no longer playing catch-up. But this could change soon, given that Scott Forstall, until recently Apple’s senior vice president of iOS, is leaving the company, and Jony Ive, Apple's legendary product design guru, will “provide leadership and direction for Human Interface,” the company said in a recent news release. Symbian is still falling because Nokia failed to adapt to the competition led by iOS and Android. It's slowly being replaced by Windows Phone OS (versions 7 and 8), which IDC thinks will overtake Apple's second place by 2016. Microsoft's Windows Phone OS looks interesting, and I'm sure that more and more OEMs such as Samsung, HTC and Nokia will start to adopt it. There's not much to say about Research-In-Motion and the BlackBerry OS, except that RIM is on the verge of releasing a newly revamped operating system known as Blackberry 10 OS. We will have to wait 2013 to see whether RIM will be able to get back their business customers. I'm still waiting to see how tablets fared in the third quarter of 2012, after Nexus 7 went on sale. Unofficially, Google sold 1 million tablets each month, exceeding expectations, but they're still way behind the iPads, which are crushing other tablets in terms of share. In this market, I'd say the iPads will still wear the crown for at least 1 or 2 years.