Forget the iPhone: Look at the Remarkable 3-Year Rise of Android

By Jordan Weissmann

Hey, remember Symbian? You know, that god awful operating system Nokia used in its smartphones? Well, just two years ago, it was still the top selling mobile OS in the world. 

Things change fast in the smartphone business. Yesterday, Gartner published it latest estimates of global mobile sales, and it reminded me of two things. First, it's really foolish to take anything for granted about an industry that reshuffles itself so quickly. Back in 2010, when "California Gurls" was tearing up the charts (God forgive us), the Blackberry was still going toe-to-toe with the iPhone. Second, when you look at sales volumes, the big story in mobile for the past few years hasn't really been Apple; it's been the rise of Google's Android. 

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In the second quarter of 2009, worldwide smartphone sales totaled about 41 million, with Apple and Android devices accounting for 5.3 million about 755,000 units, respectively. This last quarter, consumers bought 153 million smartphones.* About 28.9 million had an Apple logo, while 98.5 million ran Google's OS.  

When we watch companies like Apple and Samsung throw down in vicious patent fights to keep each others' products off of shelves, this is the chart we should keep in mind. Apple looks unbeatable today, but nobody can be certain if it'll be able to maintain the fat profit margins on each device that make it such a powerful company. And who knows what will happen when that Amazon phone comes out. Smartphones are still a relatively young industry, and things change fast. 

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*An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the figure as 140 million units.


This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/08/forget-the-iphone-look-at-the-remarkable-3-year-rise-of-android/261200/