Years and years from now, people will write books analysing the meteoric rise of Google's Android operating system. It was dismissed as niche platform at first, something that could never challenge the iPhone's rise to fame. We're a few years down the line now, and oh, how the times have changed.
According to Canalys, 33.3 million Android handsets were shipped in the fourth quarter of 2010 (4.7 million in Q4 2009), compared to 31 million Symbian-based smartphones (up from 23.9 million in Q4 2009). Apple sold 16.2 million iPhones (up from 8.7 million), while RIM sold 14.6 million BlackBerry devices (up from 10.7 million). Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 entered the market too late for the quarter in question to register on the scale, so Microsoft dropped considerably.
Looking at market share, we see Android rising from 8.7% in Q4 2009 to 32.9% in Q4 2010. The iPhone drops slightly from 16.3% to 16.0%, while Nokia drops considerably from 44.4% to 30.6%. RIM's share goes from 20.0% to 14.4%. In other words, while all phone makers sold more phones, they all pale into insignificance compared to Android's growth.
So, it would seem that Android is well on its way to become the Windows of the smartphone world. The Verizon iPhone will draw some sales in the US, but that won't do much to stop Android's growth worldwide.