Android’s Now On Top For Mobile Browsing and Search, But Still A Challenger Elsewhere

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Android is currently the most popular platform in smartphone sales, and that domination is slowly but surely making itself felt in other aspects of the mobile experience — just as Google would have wanted it to be.

Some figures out from the number-crunchers at StatCounter have found that Android’s native browser has finally overtaken Opera to become the world’s most popular mobile web browser. Added to its very consistent domination in mobile search, that makes Google now one of the biggest forces in the mobile web as well as smartphone sales.

But other figures indicate that Android still has some way to go to overtake Nokia in existing mobile OS usage; and individual vendors making Android smartphones are equally still being challenged when it comes to topping both Nokia and Apple in overall sales.

StatCounter found that February 2012 was the first time that the number of phones accessing the mobile web from Android clients had overtaken that of Opera, a non-native browser that was one of the first to hit the market and is used on a range of devices — from lower-end feature phones to Apple’s iPhone (where a user can access it through an app).

As of last week, Opera said that around 160 million people use its mobile browser monthly: according to StatCounter that represents 21.7 percent of the market. Its share for Android, meanwhile, for the month of February is 22.67 percent.

Doing the math on these numbers, that works out to 167 million people using the Android browser monthly, with more than 737 million people accessing the web using mobile browsers overall.

That 167 million is a fair bit lower than the 300 million Android devices that Eric Schmidt last week said had been activated overall — and does raise questions about what significance activation numbers have compared to active usage. (And which figure is the most relevant for whom.)

StatCounter covers other areas of mobile usage (as well as regular Internet usage; you can see them all here). Some of these throw up some interesting numbers worth thinking about:

– If you want an idea of just how dominant Google is in mobile search, this graphic pretty much says it all: no one is even in spitting distance of Google’s 97 percent share of the market, and hasn’t been in the last year. Dismal news there for Yahoo, and Bing and all of Microsoft’s mobile efforts there if this is accurate:

– When it comes to mobile OS, Android is actually still not as big as Nokia — or Apple — in terms of active devices: Nokia is still taking a more-than 30 percent share of devices on its Symbian platform — reason enough for the company to keep plugging away at new devices and features for that line, even as it doubles down on its new line of Windows Phones.

– And when it comes to individual vendors, again, Nokia is still the biggest in actively-used smartphones. In fact, between February 2011 and February 2012, its share has only dropped by about one percent, despite some ups and downs. The next-closest vendor, and you shouldn’t be surprised at all here, is Apple, with just over 30 percent and rising. The closest Android vendor is Samsung, but while it is storming in overall mobile sales, in terms of actively used smartphones, it appears to be at only 14.91 percent.