RIM continues to lose smartphone market share in Q3

Gartner reports record smartphone sales, thanks to Android and Apple (Windows, not so much)

Smartphone sales nearly doubled in the third quarter to 81 million units from the previous year's 41 million, according to data released Wednesday by technology research firm Gartner.

Sales of the smart devices also grew as a percentage of total global mobile phone sales in Q3 to 19.3 percent from last year's 13.3 percent. Meanwhile, worldwide mobile phone sales reached 417 million units in Q3, up 35 percent from the third quarter of 2009.

(Also see: More ominous signs for RIM, BlackBerry)

But let's focus on smartphones here, because sales will continue to grow as a percentage of all mobile phone shipments and the devices will become increasingly ubiquitous in enterprises.

Shipments of Android-powered devices skyrocketed in Q3 to 20.5 million units, or 25.5 percent of overall smartphone sales, compared to last year's 1.42 million sales, or 3.5 percent. Google's Android now is the No. 2 mobile OS, trailing only Symbian, which sold 29.5 million units, or 36.6 percent of all smartphone sales. However, while Symbian-powered device sales grew by more than 11 million year-over-year, they fell as a percentage of all smartphone sales from last year's 44.6 percent.

Apple's iPhone iOS increased shipments in the third quarter to 13.5 million, or 16.7 percent of all smartphone sales, compared to 7.04 million, or 17.1 percent last year. So while iOS sales increased 92 percent, they fell slightly overall in terms of global market share.

Now for the losers' tier. Research in Motion Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry, continues to falter in terms of mobile OS market share. Sales increased in Q3 to 11.9 million from 8.5 million last year -- an increase of 39.7 percent -- but RIM's market share dropped to 14.8 percent from last year's 20.7 percent.

Microsoft paid dearly for lagging behind in development of its mobile OS. The Windows platform actually saw sales decline to 2.25 million units from last year's 3.26 million, with its share of the market falling to 2.1 percent from 7.9 percent in the third quarter of 2009. The recently introduced Windows Phone 7 could reverse the slide, but don't count on Microsoft cracking the top four anytime soon, unless of course RIM continues to falter.

In fact, I'll let Gartner principal research analyst Roberta Cozza have the last word on that topic. In a statement, Cozza says, “Any platform that fails to innovate quickly — either through a vibrant multi-player ecosystem or clear vision of a single controlling entity — will lose developers, manufacturers, potential partners and ultimately users.”

What she said.

Here's a chart from Gartner laying out the numbers:

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