Android is world's leading smartphone platform, but Apple makes all the money

Google's Android mobile operating system (OS) has become the world's leading smartphone platform in the fourth quarter of 2010, eclipsing Nokia's Symbian platform as smartphone sales continue to soar but Apple has the jump on mobile profits.

Android-based smartphones saw astronomical growth from the fourth quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2010. Shipments of Google's Android, OMS and Tapas platform variants grew by 615 percent to reach 32.9 million.

Shipments of Nokia's Symbian smartphones grew by 30 percent year-over-year to 31 million, says high tech market analyst Canalys in a January 31 report on the global smartphone market for the fourth quarter of 2010.

Shipments of Apple's iOS-based smartphones put the company in third place with a 16 percent market share and 16.2 million device shipments.

Despite Apple's third place position, market analyst Asymco shows Apple raking in almost 50 percent of the mobile (as opposed to the smartphone) industry's total profit in a series of graphs published on January 31.

Google may be applauding its Android platform for reaching this smartphone milestone, but Apple is meanwhile quietly rubbing its hands together in glee - no doubt happy in the knowledge that its current mobile profits are the envy of the rest of the mobile world.

An agreement with US carrier Verizon will see Apple launch a CDMA version of its iPhone 4 in February too, a move that forecasters predict will drastically augment Apple device shipments within the country.

"The US landscape will shift dramatically this coming year, as a result of the Verizon-Apple agreement," said Canalys analyst Tim Shepherd.

"Android was by far the largest smart phone platform in the US market in Q4 2010, with shipments of 12.1 million units - nearly three times those of RIM's BlackBerry devices."

Verizon is expected to "move its focus away from the Droid range" with the arrival of the iPhone, while the US market as a whole will shift away from launching carrier-exclusive deals.

The US currently reigns as the largest country market in terms of shipments says Canalys.

The smartphone market in the US is more then double the size of the Chinese smartphone market.

The Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region retains its position as the largest market for smartphone shipments with a year-on-year growth rate of 90 percent and fourth quarter shipments of 38.8 million.

Nokia still leads in EMEA and Asia Pacific but Research In Motion (RIM) has stolen Nokia's smartphone lead in Latin America (shipping more than a million more units than Nokia in the fourth quarter of 2010).

"2011 is set to be a highly competitive year with vendors looking to use new technology, such as dual-core processors, NFC and 3D displays, to differentiate their products and maintain value," said Canalys VP and principal analyst Chris Jones.