Android powers four in every five smartphones thanks to growth in China

Gartner's third-quarter smartphone research report is out, and on the surface it paints a very flattering portrait for Google. Mirroring Strategy Analytics' report at the end of last month, Gartner also estimates that Android has crossed the symbolic 80 percent mark, reaching 81.9 percent of smartphone shipments in the last quarter, a 9.3 percent rise from last year. In comparison, analysts believe sales of Apple smartphones dropped 2.2 percentage points over the year to hold 12.1 percent of the smartphone market. Microsoft continued to take small steps to boost its market share, with Nokia's strong US sales helping Windows Phone grow to 3.6 percent of the market. Lenovo's impressive run of smartphone sales helped it almost silently climb to number three, leapfrogging LG in the process.

Before we call off the smartphone battle and declare Google the winner (an 81.9 percent share is huge in any market), Gartner's report does point to the key factors behind Android's growth. China accounted for a massive 41 percent of all Android sales in the last quarter, up seven percent from a year ago, helped by sales of Coolpad and Xiaomi smartphones. Unfortunately for Google, the majority of Chinese Android devices do not utilize the Play Store and run customized builds of its open-source operating system. In October, analyst Benedict Evans suggested just 6 percent of Chinese app installs were made via Google's app marketplace, helping add some balance to Google's mobile dominance.

Although Android is in no danger of losing its commanding market share (Samsung accounted for nearly one in every three smartphones sold globally), Apple's iPhone release cycle weighs heavily on Gartner's third-quarter report. With the iPhone 5s and 5c having had so little time to influence the stats, due to the fact that they'd only just reached many major markets, we're holding out for Gartner's next instalment for Q4 to get a better measure of Apple's progress.