Just When You Thought Apple Ruled Mobile ...


Just when we thought Apple (NAS: AAPL) iOS had dethronedGoogle (NAS: GOOG) Android in the mobile market, some new figures are splashing cold water on those hopes.

Market researcher Gartner has recently released its figures on the state of the smartphone market during the fourth quarter of 2011. The devices unsurprisingly put up massive cumulative growth, but who emerged as the clear winners and losers within?

Worldwide smartphone sales soared by 47% to 149 million in the fourth quarter, while that figure rocketed 58% to 472 million for the entire year. Gartner analyst Roberta Cozza attributed much of the strength to record iPhone sales, allowing Apple to become the No. 3 largest mobile phone purveyor in the world, passing LG in the process.


Source: Gartner.

Looking at how the operating-system terrain has changed over the year, we see that Google expanded its market share lead to 50.9% in the fourth quarter, more than double the 23.8% share that iOS claimed. Symbian and Research In Motion (NAS: RIMM) continue to sing the same song, with Symbian's share shriveling by almost two-thirds to 11.7%, while RIM's 14.6% slice crossed into single-digit territory at less than 9%. It doesn't help that RIM is also starting to lose its once-iron grip on the enterprise to iOS.

Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) also keeps struggling, as Windows Phone hasn't made a dent, with Mr. Softy's share falling to less than 2%. iOS and Android combined keep on keepin' on, growing their joint share from 46.3% to nearly 75% of the smartphone market, leaving the rest to fight over table scraps.

In the broader mobile-device market, Nokia (NYS: NOK) remains top dog in terms of sheer unit shipments, with about a 23% share for the quarter and the year, although all of its digits are on the decline, including its employee headcount.

Why do Gartner's digits paint a stark contrast to those released by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech? Every researcher uses a different methodology to arrive at their figures, and while the discrepancy between these two releases is rather large, they do share one common theme: iOS and Android are unstoppable.

With iOS and Android leading the mobile revolution, some winners are hard to see -- because they're buried inside the gadgets. The proliferation of mobile gadgets is going to be breathtaking, and a handful of companies stand to rake in the profits as consumers snap up each year's latest and greatest models. We've just released a new special free report on "3 Hidden Winners of the iPhone, iPad, and Android Revolution." In it, you'll find three companies that supply crucial components that virtually every mobile device relies on. Check it out now -- it's free.

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorEvan Niuowns shares of Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out hisholdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Google, and Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Google, Nokia, Apple, and Microsoft and creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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