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The latest research comes from Canalys, which has calculated that 51.9 million Android-based phones shipped in the second quarter, accounting for 48% of all smartphones shipped. The 51.9 million Android phone shipments represented a nearly fivefold increase from the number of Android phones shipped in the second quarter of 2010, and Android was the top mobile operating system in 35 of the 56 countries that Canalys analyzed.
Although Apple's iOS platform seemingly trailed Android significantly with a 19% share of smartphone shipments in the second quarter of 2011, its market share is extremely impressive considering that it only runs on the iPhone whereas Android runs on devices from multiple vendors. On the quarter, Canalys estimated that Apple shipped 20.3 million iPhones, which put it ahead of phones based on Nokia's now-defunct Symbian platform for the first time.
With the decline of Nokia, Canalys finds that Apple is now the top overall smartphone vendor in the world. This matches up well with numbers released by Nielsen last week showing that Apple had become the top overall smartphone vendor in the United States by accounting for 28% of smartphones used. Canalys principal analyst Chris Jones predicts that Apple's position in the global smartphone market will grow "even stronger" in the second half of the year when the iPhone 5 hits the market.
Android topped the Canalys rankings for smartphone operating systems for the first time this past January when the firm found that Android phones accounted for 32% of all smartphones shipped in the fourth quarter of 2010, up from just 9% of all device shipments in the fourth quarter of 2009. Symbian, by contrast, accounted for 44.4% of smartphone shipments in the fourth quarter of 2009 while accounting for 30.6% of smartphone shipments in the fourth quarter of 2010.
Android's growth in the mobile operating system has consistently exceeded expectations, as research firm Gartner two years ago had predicted that Symbian would still be the world's most popular operating system heading into 2012. Although Gartner significantly raised its expectations for Android over the past year, the firm had still projected that Symbian would be the top mobile operating system in the world in the fourth quarter of 2010.
Google first unveiled Android as a Linux-based open-source mobile operating system in late 2007 and it was embraced immediately by carriers Sprint and T-Mobile, with Verizon and AT&T following soon after. Since its debut three years ago, Android has risen rapidly, driven in part by the popularity of devices such as the Motorola Droid and the HTC Evo 4G. Google this year released the 3.0 version of the Android platform that was tailored specifically to run applications and software on touchscreen tablet computers.
Read more about wireless & mobile in Network World's Wireless & Mobile section.