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New research predicts that sales of handsets running Google's Android could outstrip Apple iPhones in three years, but Symbian is still in the lead
The iPhone's lead over smartphone upstart Android is set to be short-lived, according to new research.
Android smartphone sales will outstrip iPhone sales by 2012, a report by industry watchers Informa Telecoms & Media has predicted.
Last month, O2's parent Telefónica Europe revealed sales of the iPhone topped one million in the UK. While T-mobile UK – the exclusive carrier of the first Android device, the G1 – wouldn't put a figure on how many of the devices have been sold, it did say the handset now accounts for 20 per cent of its contract sales.
Web behemoth Google (GOOG) released the first beta SDK for its Android open OS platform in August last year, with the first handset – the G1 smartphone – launching the following month. A second handset, the Magic, is expected to arrive next month.
Apple's (AAPL) iPhone has a slightly longer heritage – with the first device arriving in the US in June 2007. However the 3G iPhone has only had a few months' headstart on its Google rival, hitting shops in July last year.
Both Android and OS X are eating into the market share of the number one selling smartphone OS-maker, Symbian. Last year just under half of smartphones sold were based on Symbian – a drop of 16 percentage points on the year before when it had 65 per cent market share. BlackBerry OS, Linux and Windows Mobile are also gaining popularity and eating some of Symbian's lunch, according to Informa.
However the analyst believes Symbian's switch to open source will help the Symbian Foundation maintain its leadership over Android, Linux and Microsoft over the next few years.
In 2008 almost 162 million smartphones were sold, according to Informa, surpassing laptop sales for the first time. The analyst forecasts smartphone penetration will reach 13.5 per cent of new handsets sold this year but is set to treble by 2013 – to well over a third (38 per cent) of mobile devices.
The research by Informa Telecoms & Media also suggests smartphone sales will continue to be immune to the global economic downturn, maintaining "robust growth" of 35.3 per cent, year-on-year.
However total handset sales will not be so resilient and are set to fall 10.1 per cent, year-on-year.