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Samsung is the big daddy of Android phones

Samsung has become the clear leader in sales of Android smartphones as Gartner today reported that it accounted for 40% of worldwide Android sales in the first quarter of 2012.

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Samsung, whose popular Galaxy series of smartphones and tablets have made it the major industry player among Android vendors, sold 86.6 million mobile phones in the first quarter of 2012, a 26% increase from the 68.8 mobile phones that it sold in the first quarter of 2011. What's more, Samsung displaced Nokia for the first time as the top mobile phone vendor in the world as Nokia's mobile phone sales declined from 107.6 million in the first quarter 2011 to 83.2 million in the first quarter of 2012.

Gartner said Samsung's dominance among Android vendors is particularly pronounced since no other Android device manufacturer cracks even a 10% share in the global Android smartphone market. On the quarter, Samsung sold around 32.4 million Android-based phones accounting for roughly 37.5% of all its mobile phone sales on the quarter.

Gartner also found that Android has further consolidated its position as the world's top mobile operating system over the past year as vendors sold 81 million Android smartphones in the first quarter of 2012, giving Android a 56.1% market share. In the first quarter of 2011, Android was still the top-selling mobile OS in the world but accounted for just 36.4% of all smartphones sold. Gartner reported that Apple's iOS, with a 22.9% of the first quarter 2012 global smartphone market, was the second-most popular mobile OS in the world, followed by the soon-to-be defunct Symbian, which had an 8.6% share. BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion continued its steady decline in the global smartphone market in the first quarter of 2012 as its 6.9% market share represented roughly a seven percentage point drop from the 13% market share it had in the first quarter of 2011.

Android's growth in the mobile operating system has consistently exceeded expectations, as Gartner two years ago had predicted that Symbian would still be the world's most popular operating system heading into 2012. Although Gartner significantly raised its expectations for Android since then, the firm had still projected that Symbian would be the top mobile operating system in the world in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Google first unveiled Android as a Linux-based open-source mobile operating system in late 2007 and it was embraced immediately by carriers Sprint and T-Mobile, with Verizon and AT&T following soon after. Since its debut three years ago, Android has risen rapidly, driven in part by the popularity of devices such as the Samsung Galaxy, the Motorola Droid and the HTC Evo 4G. Google late last year year released the 4.0 ("Ice Cream Sandwich) version of the Android platform that was designed specifically to unify Android across multiple device types and provide Android users with the same experience on both smartphones and tablets.

Brad Reed covers both Google and the wireless industry for Network World. Be sure to check out his blog, Google Reed-er, and follow him on Twitter at @bwreednww.

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