Android Extends Lead Over Apple, Research Firms Say

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Sales of Android smartphones are rising dramatically, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, with almost half a billion Android phones sold last year.

Strategy Analytics estimates that 152.1 million Android smartphones were shipped, or sold, globally in the fourth quarter of 2012, almost doubling from 80.6 million units a year earlier.

"Android's share of the smartphone market has surged from 51% to 70% over the past year, crushing Symbian, Bada and other platforms in its wake," wrote Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, in a statement. "Android is clearly the undisputed volume leader of the smartphone industry at the present time."

Some 479 million smartphones built around the Google ( GOOG) mobile OS were sold in 2012, up from 238.9 million in 2011.

The growth of Android is driven by the likes of Samsung, which recently reported impressive fourth-quarter profit, boosted by "solid sales" of its Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 devices. The gadget maker, however, doesn't report specific numbers for its products.

Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone, though, still holds a significant chunk of the iPhone market. Some 47.8 million Apple iOS smartphones were sold during the fourth quarter of 2012, up from 37 million a year earlier, although the operating system's share decreased slightly year over year, from 23.6% to 22%.

Some 135.8 million iOS phones were sold in 2012, compared with 93 million in 2011.

"Combined, Apple and Android accounted for a record 92% share of all smartphones shipped globally in the fourth quarter of 2012," wrote Scott Bicheno, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics. "The worldwide smartphone industry has effectively become a duopoly as consumer demand has polarized around mass-market Android models and premium Apple designs."

Another tech research firm, IDC, also reported that Samsung has increased its smartphone lead over Apple. The Korean tech giant sold 63.7 million units for a 29% market share in the fourth quarter, according to IDC, up from 36.2 million units and 22.5% share a year earlier.

During the fourth quarter of 2012, Apple sold 47.8 smartphones for 21.8% of the market, IDC said, compared with 37 million smartphones and a 23% share from a year earlier.

-- Written by James Rogers in New York

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