Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

GOOGLE'S Android operating system for mobile devices now commands close to 75% of the market for this software, giving the global search giant more sway than ever in determining smartphone and tablet design and use.

Figures released by research firm Gartner show that Android's share of the global mobile operating system (OS) market is up from 52.5% last year to 72.4% in 2012. Apple's iOS, found on iPhones, iPods and iPad tablets, is down from 15% to 13.9%.

The appetite for Microsoft's new mobile OS, Windows Phone 8, is growing, albeit off a tiny base, but has gone from 1.5% market share to 2.4%. The real growth following its recent launch will only become apparent in 2013.

BlackBerry-maker RIM's share of the smartphone OS market dropped to 5.3% off about double that a year ago. In January next year the company will release a radically overhauled version of its mobile OS and two high-end smartphones.

Mobile operating system software like Android, iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry OS define the experience people have on their smart devices, but are not money-spinners. Revenue comes from the app stores attached to mobile OSs and, as a result, the number of apps developed, available and sold.

Gartner's third-quarter figures for 2012 showed that smartphone sales were up about 47% over the same period last year, edging 40% of total mobile phone sales, which were down overall by 3.1%. Samsung and Apple dominate the smartphone space and the two companies account for just under 50% of the smartphone market.

Nokia dropped from number three in the second quarter of this year to number seven in smartphone sales — its place was taken by RIM. The reverse is likely to occur in the next quarter on the back of Nokia's Windows Phone 8 sales.

The shining star in the smartphone market is Samsung — the Korean company's range of Galaxy Android phones are a hit and command 32.5% of the global smartphone market.

* This article was first published in Sunday Times: Business Times