Gartner: Android on nearly half all smartphones by end of 2012

Market analysis firm Gartner is trying to look into the future of the turbulent smartphone market—and it sees things coming up very rosy for Google’s Android operating system. According to Gartner, by the end of 2012 Android will be powering nearly half of all smartphones sold worldwide (49.2 percent), while Apple’s iOS and Rim’s BlackBerry platforms will be distant runners-up with 18.9 and 12.6 percent of the smartphone market.

“As vendors delivering Android-based devices continue to fight for market share, price will decrease to further benefit consumers”, Gartner principal analyst Roberta Cozza wrote, in a statement. “Android’s position at the high end of the market will remain strong, but its greatest volume opportunity in the longer term will be in the mid- to low-cost smartphones, above all in emerging markets.”

Gartner smartphone OS share forecasts

Gartner’s forecasts for 2011 remain more modest, but show Android gaining rapidly in the marketplace, mostly at the expense of the now-moribund Symbian platform. By the end of this year, Gartner believes Android will account for 38.5 percent of the global smartphone market, with Apple’s iOS managing a 19.4 percent share, just ahead of Symbian with a 19.2 percent share. Gartner believes RIM will account for a 13.4 percent share of the market this year (down from 16 percent last year), with Microsoft coming in with a 5.6 percent share.

However, in 2012, Gartner believes smartphone sales will explode, jumping from a forecast volume of about 468 million units in 2011 to more than 630 million units in 2012. And Gartner believes Android will reap most of the benefits of that explosion as Symbian enters a sharp decline and Apple’s iOS mostly holds its own, proportionately. Gartner forecasts Microsoft will be able to jump to a 10.8 percent share by the end of 2012—making it the number-three platform worldwide—but Gartner doesn’t’ seem to have much faith in HP’s ability to put webOS back in the smartphone business: none of the company’s forecasts separate out forecasts for webOS at all.

It’s worth noting that share of the smartphone market isn’t the same thing as overall shares of an operating system across devices: Apple’s iOS also runs on the successful iPod touch and iPad, and Android runs on a growing variety of tablets and media devices. However, Gartner notes that consumers propensities towards media tablets and smartphones are linked.

“Consumers who already own an open OS communications device will be drawn to media tablets and more often than not, to media tablets that share the same OS as their smartphone,” said Gartner research VP Carolina Milanesi, in a statement. “This allows consumers to be able to share the same experience across devices as well as apps, settings, or game scores. At the same time, tablet users who don’t own a smartphone could be prompted to adopt one to be able to share the experience they have on their tablets.”