Android and iOS together accounted for 91.1 percent of all smartphone shipments during the fourth quarter of 2012 (4Q12), as per latest figures from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. Speaking of numbers, the report added that Android smartphone vendors and those of Apple shipped a total of 207.6 million units worldwide during 4Q12, thereby registering a growth of 70.2 percent from the 122.0 million units shipped during 4Q11. In 2012, Android and iOS combined for 87.6 percent of the 722.4 million smartphones shipped worldwide, up from 68.1 percent of the 494.5 million units shipped during calendar year 2011.

“The dominance of Android and Apple reached a new watermark in the fourth quarter,” said Ramon Llamas, Research Manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team. “Android boasted a broad selection of smartphones, and an equally deep list of smartphone vendor partners. Finding an Android smartphone for nearly any budget, taste, size, and price was all but guaranteed during 2012. As a result, Android was rewarded with market-beating growth.”

Android, iOS made up for 91.1% of smartphone shipments in 4Q12: IDC

207.6 million Android, iOS smartphones shipped in 4Q12 (Image credit: Getty Images)

“Likewise, demand for Apple's iPhone 5 kept iOS out in front and in the hands of many smartphone users,” added Llamas. “At the same time, lower prices on the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S brought iOS within reach of more users and sustained volume success of older models. Even with the Apple Maps debacle, iPhone owners were not deterred from purchasing new iPhones.”

Both Android and iOS together accounted for more than 50 percent share of the smartphone OS market over the past two years. As for BlackBerry and Microsoft, they have been working on competing platforms that have recently launched and are building up for competition. The 4Q of 2012 saw Microsoft launch its Windows Phone 8. BlackBerry, of course, has been grabbing headlines recently courtesy the unveiling of BB10 platform in January. 

“With the recent introductions of two new smartphone platforms we expect some ground to be made by the new entrants over the coming years,” said Ryan Reith, Program Manager with IDC's Mobile Device Trackers. “There is no question the road ahead is uphill for both Microsoft and BlackBerry, but history shows us consumers are open to change. Platform diversity is something not only the consumers have asked for, but also the operators.”

The popular Android OS continued its growth run overall and managed a triple-digit growth for the year. South Korean giant Samsung emerged as the biggest contributor to Android's success, accounting for 42.0 percent of all Android smartphone shipments during the year. With Samsung, there were a host of other vendors accounting for a single-digit market share and a lengthier list of vendors with a market share of less than one percent. The report added: “The intra-Android competition has not stifled companies from keeping Android as the cornerstone of their respective smartphone strategies, but has upped the ante to innovate proprietary experiences.”

iOS posted yet another quarter and year of double-digit growth with strong demand for the iPhone. But what also stands out is how iOS's year-over-year growth has slowed compared to the overall market. The smaller volumes during 2Q12 and to a smaller extent 3Q12 underscore the possibility for a mid-year iPhone release in order to maintain market-beating growth. Speculation about the release of possible larger-screen and inexpensive models during the middle of 2013 continues to follow Apple, which would help sustain growth. But until any model is formally announced, speculation remains simply that.

For Canada-based BlackBerry, IDC notes that the decision to push back the release of BB10 to 2013 led it to rely mainly on its older smartphones running BB7. What this led to is that its rapport with enterprise users weakened, so did its popularity in emerging markets. With BlackBerry's much speculated BB10 now here, it is looking to persuade older users as well as those on other platforms to switch. 

Windows Phone/Windows Mobile saw their numbers increase in the 4Q of 2012. IDC attributed Microsoft's association with Nokia as the one primarily leading to its success. Nokia too, seems to have benefited from its association with Microsoft, with it making up for 76 percent of all Windows Phone/Windows Mobile smartphone shipments. Besides Nokia, the list of vendors trying out Windows Phone and Android, however, is rather short. 

Linux's growth chart, as per IDC, remained rather flat from the previous year. Both NEC and Panasonic moved to Android, leaving newbies like K-Touch and Haier to take up the space. “Linux will bear close observation in 2013 as new smartphones from SailFish, Tizen, and Ubuntu are all scheduled to launch this year. Still, these new Linux-powered operating systems will require time and investment to gain momentum in the market, making for a slowly growing trajectory,” IDC notes. 

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