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Symbian is still top mobile OS – finished 2011 with resurgence

As we’re quickly approaching the end of 2011 we take a last look at what the year for mobile operating systems was like.

Would it surprise you to know that Symbian finished 2011 stronger than it started the year? The much-maligned operating system is still number one, ahead of Android, iOS, and the others.

Here’s how 2011 panned out in mobile operating systems.

Symbian finished 2011 over 11 percentage points ahead of iOS

Using StatCounter’s figures for mobile operating systems we charted the main mobile operating systems during 2011. To summarize, Symbian finished stronger than it started, iOS dropped a little bit, Android gained a lot, and BlackBerry was all but decimated.

A few notes about how the mobile OS market developed over 2011:

  • Symbian started and finished 2011 as the undisputed king of mobile OSs. Going from 30.25% in January to 33.59% in December, Symbian made a resurgence in the last two months of the year.
  • Apple may take in the bulk of the profits in the mobile industry but in terms of share of mobile operating systems it had a pretty flat 2011. Starting out with 25.02% it falls in the first six months and made a slight recovery to 22.56% in December.
  • The Google juggernaut that is Android made a considerable market share improvement from 14.61% to 21.74%. If this development keeps up it won’t be long until Android takes the number two spot from iOS, a position it held for a short time in August 2011.
  • The real loser in 2011 is RIM’s BlackBerry OS, which fell from 15.03% to 7.86%. Actually BlackBerry started the year just ahead of Android but fell steadily behind over the twelve months.
  • Samsung is obviously a major player in the Android space, but it showed up with both Samsung OS as well as bada, which finished 2011 with 5.62% and 0.5% respectively.

Despite great 2011, Symbian’s future is uncertain

As interesting as it is to see that Symbian has actually increased its share of mobile web browsing a bit in 2011, doubt remains as to the future of the platform. Despite selling almost 24 million Symbian smartphones in Q2 2011, and close to 100 million mobile devices altogether in the same period, not many numbers for Nokia point in a positive direction.

It remains to be seen what developments will happen in 2012 but it seems certain that the competition will only increase. Apple and Google will keep fighting amongst each other but new entries like Mozilla’s Boot to Gecko and Canonical’s Ubuntu for mobile devices may also move in to claim a stake in the market.

Photo credit: “symbian fanboy” by rhinman.



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It needs to be stressed (as you did in some other posts), that statcounter tracks total web usage, not the number of individual users. Android has a much larger market share than Apple in unit sales — but many of these are cheaper devices, which are less suitable for web browsing, and/or owned by people who don’t want to afford regular mobile browsing.

It’s also interesing to take a look at the geographical distribution: while Apple and Android are dominant in wealthy countries, Symbian is strong in regions such as India, Africa, or South America. These are regions where most people can only afford simple Symbian devices which barely pass as smartphones; yet people use them a lot, as they often don’t have a PC and/or landline internet. These large (and growing) markets counterbalance the decline of Symbian in more wealthy countries, where few people use these low-end devices for web browsing. The market share of Nokia’s high-end Symbian devices on the other hand is virtually non-existent.

What these numbers show is that Symbian doesn’t really compete with Apple and Android at all: they serve completely different markets. Apple and Android (and somewhat RIM) cover the high-end; in the middle class, Android is dominant; while Symbian is the undisputed king on low-end devices, with Samsung’s unnamed OS as pretty much the only competition.

It should also be stressed that most websites regurgitating those stats and this chart don’t know what these very stats and chart represent.

I presume by SymbianOS they mean Nokia. This would include S40 phones as well as Symbian.

I’m wondering why Gizmodo even ran a story on this study if its not even reliable. Fact checking dudes! Learn it!

I have been wrong. I thought Symbian has long been deceased. I only know Android. And the Apple OS Mobile.

I wonder how the “SymbianOS” has been tracked? Is it reliable? I mean, there are zillions of S40 devices out there which are pretty capable today and should be visible in the stats.

Take a look – http://www.developer.nokia.com/Community/Wiki/User-Agent_headers_for_Nokia_devices

You can see that NokiaBrowser is used by latter browsers in Symbian but also in S40 and in N9.