Android could own half of the global smartphone market this year.
As shipments of Android phones reached 206 million in 2011, Google's mobile OS captured 46 percent of the global market, easily making it the largest smartphone platform, according to Taiwan's Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute (MIC).
Such growth paves the way for Android to carve out a 50 percent slice of the market in 2012, says MIC, in a story by Taiwan Economic News. Though Android will retain its firm lead, MIC also predicts that the market will be dominated this year by Apple's iOS with a 19 percent share and Microsoft's Windows Phone with a 13 percent share.
Looking at the major smartphone makers, MIC sees Samsung in the lead with a 21.7 percent share, followed by Apple with 18.7 percent. HTC share's will rise to 10.9 percent. But Nokia and RIM will face a rough climate with their shares dropping to 15.6 percent and 8.6 percent, respectively.
Overall, smartphone shipments could hit 614 million this year, a 36 percent jump from the 452 million shipped last year, estimates MIC. For now, smartphone owners account for only around 14 percent of all mobile subscribers around the globe. But as lower-priced smartphones reach consumers, especially in emerging markets, that percentage will grow to 17 percent this year and 40 percent in 2016.
Also eyeing a bright 2012 for smartphones is ABI Research, which expects 3G and 4G phones to account for more than half of all mobile phones shipped for the first time ever. If ABI's shipment estimate of 1.67 billion handsets is on the money, that points to at least 835 million smartphones due to ship this year.
Looking to eke out more global business, the major smartphone vendors focused on emerging markets last year, notes ABI.
With a varied lineup of smartphones, Samsung has gained strong traction among emerging nations. Apple expanded its sales channels in more emerging countries, capturing healthy sales in China but also targeting South American markets such as Brazil.
Though HTC's core consumer is in North America and Europe, the company had also grabbed more business in China. RIM has been doing well in areas such as Indonesia, which rely heavily on text messaging. And Nokia is hoping for success with Windows Phone launches in India and China during the first quarter of the year.
Still, North America remains the most lucrative market.
"North America may only represent 15 percent of feature and smartphone units shipped globally, but due to the high proportion of high-end smartphone sales, it constitutes 40 percent of total smartphones sold by value," Kevin Burden, ABI's vice president and practice director for mobile devices, said in a statement. "It underscores what is at stake in the patent battles between Apple, Samsung, Motorola, Google, HTC, Microsoft, and even British Telecom."