Apple and Android: Powering up the smartphone league
Want a glimpse of how fast the mobile world is changing? Take a look at the latest figures on handset sales from the research firm Gartner and you'll find that, in the space of one year, several earthquakes have shaken the market.
First of all, the market is growing rapidly again, with sales in the last quarter up 35% on the same period last year. But what stands out is the 96 % rise in smartphone sales. One in five handsets sold was a smartphone - what were once expensive toys for executives and gadget freaks are entering the mainstream.
And it's Apple and Android which are powering this smartphone revolution. Apple has now grabbed fourth place in the overall handset market from RIM, makers of Blackberry, after a stellar quarter which saw 13 million iPhones sold around the world.
But it's the performance of Google's Android operating system across a range of handsets which is the big story. In the third quarter of 2009, Android phones had a 3.5% share of the smartphone market, this time that has soared to 25%.
Android and Apple, with their very different approaches, have grabbed this lucrative new market by the throat, and as the Gartner analyst Roberta Cozza puts it, there's little time for others to react:
"Any platform that fails to innovate quickly - either through a vibrant multi-player ecosystem or clear vision of a single controlling entity - will lose developers, manufacturers, potential partners and ultimately users."
Of course, Nokia fans will point out that they are still top dog in both smartphone sales and the wider handset market. But a firm which has long set a target of commanding 40% of the overall market has seen its share drop from 36% to 28% in the last year. Twenty-nine million smartphones running Symbian were sold in the quarter - but you can bet that the profit on each of them was a fraction of that achieved on the 34 million Android and Apple phones.
Nokia brought control of the Symbian operating system back in-house this week, after it became clear that the idea of an open system which would be endorsed and supported by a wide coalition of manufacturers was not going to fly.
In Roberta Cozza's words, Nokia failed to turn Symbian into a vibrant multi-player ecosystem, now it must try again as a single controlling entity. By Q3 2011 it will need to prove that the new strategy is working - but by then of course the world will have changed again.