Android lost smartphone market share for the first time, as Apple had a great fourth quarter buoyed by the launch of the iPhone 4S, according to data from market research company Gartner.
Worldwide smartphone sales to end users increased to 149 million during the last three months of 2011, a 47.3 percent increase on a year earlier, Gartner said.
Android is still the most popular operating system, with a market share of 50.9 percent. The Android camp, headed up by Samsung Electronics, sold 75.9 million phones, but that wasn't enough to prevent a drop from the 52.5 percent market share the OS commanded during the third quarter.
Apple sold 35.5 million smartphones to end users, which made it both the biggest smartphone vendor and the third-largest overall phone maker in the world. It had a smartphone market share of 23.8 percent.
This was due to strong iPhone sales, driven in particular by the iPhone 4S sales in mature markets and the weakness of key Android vendors as they struggled to create differentiated devices, according to Gartner.
Symbian was the third-largest smartphone operating system, with a market share of 11.7 percent and 17.5 million phones sold. Sales of smartphones based on the platform are dropping faster than expected, Nokia said when it presented its results for the fourth quarter.
Despite new devices and improvements on Symbian's user interface, it has become clear that Nokia will not be able to continue relying on Symbian and needs to move even faster to Windows Phones, IDC's Francisco Jeronimo said at the time.
Nokia still has a lot of work to do before the move to Windows Phone can be considered a success. A total of about 2.7 million Windows Phones were sold in the fourth quarter, including 1.3 million Nokia Lumias, according to Roberta Cozza, principal analyst at Gartner.
That means Samsung's Bada OS is still bigger than Windows Phone, as Samsung sold 3.1 million phones running Bada.
Ahead of Bada and Microsoft is Research In Motion's BlackBerry OS, which had a market share of 8.8 percent thanks to the sales of 13.2 million phones.
Total smartphone sales in 2011 reached 472 million units, up 58 per cent from 2010.