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How smartphones became 2010's gadget success story

How smartphones became 2010's gadget success story

We already know that smartphones are enjoying their moment in the sun. But the meteoric rise of the phone that can do it all has been thrown into the limelight with the publication of new research by Gartner. The figures make for astonishing reading and leave no doubt that 2010 has been the year that the smartphone swept all before it.

Android illustration

Consider this: one in five phones now sold globally are smartphones. That’s around 84 million of the 417 million phones sold in the third quarter of this year. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, smartphone sales are said to have surged an insane 96 per cent in the last year, as Android, especially took hold. Indeed, the research claims that sales of Android-loaded devices have surged by a frankly insane 1,439 per cent, putting Google’s OS just behind Symbian in the battle for smartphone top spot.

Apple is now in third. However, Cupertino has something else to cheer. It’s now the fourth biggest phone maker in the world, behind established industry players Nokia, Samsung and LG.

Apple iPhone 4 alternate

Considering four years ago the iPhone was just a rumour and that since then Apple has only ever sold one type of phone, that’s something Jobs and co can be mighty proud of. But why has 2010 seen this surge? There are a number of factors, but realistically, it can be put down to OEMs and smartphone OS gurus finally figuring out how to take the fight to the iPhone and keep things simple.

That’s not to say there weren’t great iPhone alternatives before this year, just that the competition has got so much better. And there’s no doubting that it’s the Open Handset Alliance leading the charge. Google’s smartphone share has risen from a mere 3.5 per cent a year ago to 25.5 per cent now.

Android was a slow starter. But thanks largely to HTC and its stunning Mobile World Congress range earlier this year, it was able to show itself as the future for those not keen on being locked into the Apple ecosystem. Since then, development has come at an astonishing pace, as the likes of the Galaxy S and soon the Xperia X12, show the way.

Samsung Galaxy S I9000

But there’s no denying Apple it’s place in the tech phenomenon of 2010. Its overall smartphone share might have slid. But without Cupertino laying the groundwork, it’s arguable that phones that do it all would have remained a niche interest of tech heads and gadget geeks. The iPhone 4’s success, in spite of antennagate, proves that people still want Jobs and co’s goods, even if they’re hamstrung by reception issues.

The iPhone is no longer the only phone that can handle intensive tasks in a way that doesn’t confuse regular punters. Android’s simplicity and even Symbian’s ability to find its way onto an ever wider base of mobile phones shows that the appetite to do it all on-the-go is growing.

2010 is also the year that we’ve seen a slew of much more affordable smartphones that can still do it all hit the market, from budget Nokia efforts to the likes of excellent HTC Wildfire. Put simply, the tech inside has got cheaper and therefore it’s become easier for OEMs to share the love and create a phenomenon.

So what about 2011? It seems safe to assume that Android will become smartphone number one and also that sales will continue to grow. The all-important developing markets will start to catch the smartphone bug, and when that happens, you can bet the days of the smartie playing second fiddle to the standard cell are over. This year has been incredible for smartphones and Gartner’s stats show just how well all the major players are doing, despite adverse economic conditions.

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