Android suffers first-ever market share decline

For the first time since it 2008 introduction, Android’s position in the smartphone wars has dipped.

ABI Research reports that in the fourth quarter of 2011, Android’s market share reached 47.0%. In the previous quarter, it was at 52.5%.

This is the first time in ABI’s reporting history that this number dropped quarter-to-quarter. The culprit? Pretty much anyone can tell you – it was the iPhone 4S. Although there was a huge explosion in the number of Android phones that were shipped – Samsung alone sent out 33 million last quarter – it wasn’t enough to stop the steam train that was Apple’s latest iPhone.

“Apple’s iPhone 4S cut Samsung off at the knees and outpaced Samsung’s highly coveted 280% [year-to-year] smartphone growth,” wrote ABI. Apple sold an eye-popping 37 million iPhones this latest quarter alone. This makes it the first time that Apple toppled the smartphone market.

All these numbers are on a global scale, where Apple had historically only had a muted presence. Of course, in the US, the iPhone has been #1 on the charts practically since its debut.

ABI credits China for much of Apple’s wildly exploding growth in the rest of the world. The ferver surrounding the iPhone 4S is now dying down, though, and Apple is faced with the reality that it only gets one chance a year to wow consumers while Android pops up on new and exciting devices all the time.

So we’ll see if this trend can continue throughout 2012, and it will be especially interesting to see if the iPhone 5 can create a similar level of excitement.