Android might have a cute little green robot for a logo, but the mobile operating system is proving a massive beast: research firm IDC estimates that it accounted for 75 percent of the 181.1 million smartphones shipped in the third quarter of 2012, a blistering 91.5 percent year-over-year growth. "Android has been one of the primary growth engines of the smartphone market since it was launched in 2008," Ramon Llamas, research manager of mobile phones at IDC, wrote in a Nov. 1 statement accompanying the data. "In every year since then, Android has effectively outpaced the market and taken market share from the competition. In addition, the combination of smartphone vendors, mobile operators, and end-users who have embraced Android has driven shipment volumes higher.” That’s not the greatest news for the other mobile operating-system vendors fighting for their slice of the market pie. IDC estimated Research In Motion’s share of the market as falling from 9.5 percent to 4.3 percent year-over-year, a decline that makes the company’s planned revival around the upcoming BlackBerry 10 an even steeper uphill battle. Nokia’s Symbian operating system plunged from 14.6 percent to 2.3 percent during the same period, as the Finnish phone-maker shifted attention and resources to building smartphones running Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system. Android’s biggest opponent, Apple’s iOS, saw its year-over-year share increase incrementally from 13.8 percent to 14.9 percent. Microsoft’s Windows Phone—which IDC groups with the antiquated Windows Mobile—increased from 1.2 percent to 2.0 percent, as Nokia and other manufacturers released new devices loaded with the OS. Those IDC estimates hint at the issues facing the various mobile manufacturers this holiday season: for Nokia and Microsoft, bound tightly together with Windows Phone, it’s imperative to make inroads as soon as possible against Apple and Google—a tall order given the respective market-shares involved. For its part, RIM can do precious little until BlackBerry 10 in early 2013. But Apple might face the biggest challenge of all. Although its smartphone franchise remains a blockbuster, the company has a big target on its back: a plethora of Android manufacturers are producing ever-more-sophisticated devices in hope of overshadowing the iPhone’s appeal. Combine Android’s massive market-share with companies like Microsoft aggressive for a bigger piece, and Apple could have more of a fight in coming months and years.   Image: Robert Kneschke/