Android's Creaming Apple

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Androids have taken over the planet.

There's more proof that Google's (NAS: GOOG) mobile operating system continues to demolish the competition.

IT research firm Gartner published its latest global wireless sales metrics for the third quarter.

We still live in a world where smartphone owners are in the minority. A whopping 74% of the handsets sold in this country are for more conventional feature phones. However, the trend is undeniable. Smartphone sales to end users exploded 42% over the past year.

Gartner provides a little more color by breaking down market share performance by smartphone operating system. Google's the global top dog, but where does that leave Apple's (NAS: AAPL) iOS, Research In Motion (NAS: RIM) , Samsung's Bada, Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) , and the Symbian platform being championed by Nokia (NYS: NOK) ?

Let's see how all six mobile operating systems are holding up, stacking them up against last year's market share.

System

Q3 Handsets

Q3 2011 Share

Q3 2012 Share

Android60.5 million52.5%25.3%
Symbian19.5 million16.9%36.3%
iOS17.3 million15%16.6%
RIM12.7 million11%15.4%
Bada2.5 million2.2%1.1%
Microsoft1.7 million1.5%2.7%

Source: Gartner.

There are a few things here that may seem shocking, largely that Apple's iPhone is actually losing market share.

It's at this point where we should stamp a huge asterisk there. The iPhone 4S didn't hit the market until mid-October, and knowledgeable smartphone shoppers knew that it was best to wait during the three months ending in September.

However, this can't take away from Google's amazing success with Android. Mobile devices have nearly tripled as market share more than doubled. Everyone else -- short of Samsung's Bada as a fringe player -- saw its market share decline over the past year. Bada's even outselling Microsoft, though I'm too lazy to drum up a Bada Bing joke here.

The good news is that this is a growing pie, so a decline in market share isn't fatal. However, this does explain why Microsoft has been so desperate to promote its new mobile operating system -- and why Nokia was more than happy to embrace it at the right price.

Android's looking pretty unbeatable right now, but in this fast-moving space there is no such thing as a safe and insurmountable lead. Just ask Symbian.

If you want to see how the iPhone disrupts the industry, follow the relevant companies by addingGoogleandAppleto My Watchlist.

At the time this article was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Apple, Microsoft, and Google.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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