The Smartphone Winner You Don't Know About

Market research firm Gartner just released its latest quarterly report on mobile phone sales. Some of the changes in the report are just obvious extensions of long-established trends -- Android crushes everybody, Apple plays the clear second fiddle across the globe, Nokia and Research In Motion keep falling toward total oblivion.

But if you read a little further, it seems like market leader Samsung has a solid Plan B in case the Android joyride ever ends.

The Korean company has developed its own smartphone software, based on a mishmash of open-source solutions. It's called Bada and sold under the Samsung Wave brand. You won't find these in your local AT&T or Verizon store, because Sammy mostly ships them to emerging markets, letting the Android-based Galaxy line do the heavy lifting in more affluent markets like America.

But according to Gartner, Samsung's backup plan is a major hit already. With only two and a half years of market history, the Bada platform shipped on 5 million handsets last quarter. Sales doubled year over year, passing Nokia's Symbian solution and Microsoft's Windows Phone along the way. Another year like that and Bada will pass RIM's formerly addictive BlackBerry system. Given BlackBerry's hasty decline, the crossing point will probably come even sooner.

And when that happens, Bada becomes the third most popular smartphone platform in the world. It's growing faster than Apple's iOS and keeps pace with Android, just from a lower starting point. I wouldn't be surprised to see Samsung Wave phones eventually making their way to America, probably through prepaid service providers such as MetroPCS and Leap Wireless at first and presented as a low-cost alternative to high-end iPhones and Androids.

This market changes so fast, it's hard to keep up. Blink and you'd miss Bada's rise to power, for example.

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