An article on Gearlog is reminding people that Symbian is still the top OS, at least based on annual sales for 2010. Symbian phones represented 37.6% of the market in 2010, with Android shipping on 22.7% and iPhone taking 15.7%. They do note, however, that Symbian held 46.9% of the market in 2009, but also fail to note that the previous year Symbian held nearly 55% of the global market. At its peak, Symbian apparently held between 60% and 70% of global smartphone shipments.
Okay, so Symbian is on top for one more year. This isn’t a surprise. Apple continued to gain ground, and the Android explosion happened as a plethora of handsets flooded the market (Android share increased 888.8% over 2009). But I suspect that 2010 is the last year we see Symbian on top, and it will be surpassed by Android and possibly iPhone. Thinking that the current numbers means continued dominance is ignoring the trend. It’s like saying your airplane is still flying, but ignoring the altimeter spinning toward zero and the increasing proximity of the ground through the windows.
Symbian is, for better or worse, on its way out of the trend of the past few years is any indication. Switching to Windows Phone 7 may be the only way for Nokia to stay relevant in the smartphone market, although I think Android would make more sense for them. Whatever they do, sticking with Symbian will likely result in the same result as Palm sticking with PalmOS until it was too late. That story isn’t finished, but being bought by HP may have just forestalled the end, and not prevented it. Nokia could end up in the same boat, dwindling in importance until they become a footnote in the history of a market segment they helped establish.