Highlights Of 2011: A Crazy Year In Mobile, By The Numbers

This is the first in a series of posts over the next week that will look at the most significant developments of this year in the sectors that we cover, from publishing to mobile to advertising.

If we accept that the modern mobile computing movement kicked off in 2007 with the launch of the iPhone, than 2011 was easily the most pivotal year we’ve yet seen. Here are five numbers that illustrate just how eventful a year it was.

324 million: The number of smartphones sold worldwide through three quarters of 2011 (according to Gartner), and feel free to tack on another 120 million or so to account for the fourth quarter. That’s a 63 percent increase compared to the same period in 2010. And amazingly, that’s still only about a quarter of mobile phone sales in general, which underscores just how much growth remains in this industry as component costs decline and wireless networks improve.

194 percent: The growth in Android smartphones worldwide from the third quarter of 2010 to the same period this year. Android’s growth has been nothing short of phenomenal, and while the aging Symbian remains the world’s most widely used mobile operating system Android has lived up to everything Google (NSDQ: GOOG) ever hoped it would in helping to ensure that one company–Apple–would not dominate the modern mobile market.

33.62 billion: The market value shed by Research in Motion (NSDQ: RIMM) during 2011, the year in which it became clear that the company has no clue how to move beyond the BlackBerry that sustained its business for so long until the iPhone made it look pedestrian. At year’s end, RIM had once again delayed a next-generation product while begging for more time, and time is most assuredly not on its side.

6: The number of companies that joined together in order to deny Google a chance to purchase Nortel’s horde of mobile patents in July, forcing it to spend $12.5 billion in August on a panic purchase of Motorola (NYSE: MMI) in order to obtain some sort of patent cover for Android. Patents were the ubiquitous story of 2011 in the mobile world, playing a huge role in product rollout strategies, industry alliances, and frustrating nearly everyone except Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) in the process.

3: The number of mobile products introduced by Apple under the late Steve Jobs, who finally succumbed to cancer in October. The iPod, iPhone, and iPad created the modern mobile market by showing the world that people were desperate for easy-to-use mobile user-interfaces that were also capable of running sophisticated applications and browsing the Web as if they were PCs. And they also set off a scramble among traditional mobile companies like Palm (NYSE: HPQ), RIM and Samsung as well as traditional PC companies like HP, Dell, and Acer to try and catch up to Apple’s lead. Android may have the numbers, but Apple’s vision of mobile computing remains more influential.

Read the rest of the posts in our Highlights of 2011 archives.