While the Google Android mobile operating system currently runs on less than 2% of all smartphones, Gartner predicts it will surge to 14% of the global smartphone market in 2012, ahead of the iPhone, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry smartphones.
In that year, Gartner forecasts Android will actually rank second globally, behind the Symbian OS, which is used in Nokia devices that are highly popular in Europe. Symbian now runs on about half of all smartphones, but will fall to 39% in 2012, Gartner says.
The Gartner forecast gives Android such an enormous surge in popularity because of a variety of factors, but chiefly because of Google's backing of Android and the range of cloud computing functions and related applications that Google will make available in coming years.
While the first Android product release, the T-Mobile G1, only won a lukewarm response, Android 1.5 (code-named Cupcake) is well thought-out, Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney said. Other expected improvements in Android for its application store and development environment will be "backed by the power of Google's search engine," he said. "Google's other up and coming consumer and enterprise products should make [Android] a dominant platform."
And because Android and Google operate in an "integrative and open environment, [they] could easily top... the singular Apple," he said.
Android will also run on phones from several manufacturers, helping its growth, especially when compared to the iPhone, Dulaney said. In 2010, as many as 40 models of Android devices will ship, and the next OS update, code-named Donut, will ship in the second quarter, Dulaney predicted.
As an early example of how Android should be successful, Dulaney pointed to Motorola's Cliq, with its Motoblur interface that he said "handles communications very effectively."
To explain, Dulaney said that smartphone interfaces seem to have headed off in two divergent ways, with iPhone's heavy focus on applications compared to Windows Mobile's and Symbian's focus on smartphone tasks and communications. But Android, he said, "has blended a focus on applications and tasks pretty well."
Android's interface allows a user to perform frequently needed tasks, without going back to the top of the logic tree to switch between tasks, he said. Makers of Android "have done a good job of knowing how you work on a phone," he said.
The complete Gartner forecast for smartphone OSes by the end of 2012 puts Symbian on top with 203 million devices sold, and 39% of the market. Android will be second with nearly 76 million units sold, and 14.5% of the market.
Coming in a close third, the iPhone will ship on 71.5 million devices in 2012, giving a 13.7% market share. Windows Mobile will finish fourth, with 66.8 million units sold, or 12.8% of the market.
Android will have moved up the most from 2009 to 2012, from sixth place to second. BlackBerry will have moved down the most, from second to fifth, while iPhone will remain in third position and Windows Mobile will remain in fourth position, Gartner says.