Quarterly figures and analyst reports indicate varying fortunes for the major mobile players, but the big number of overall sales suggests users want their phones to do more, as Apple (news, site) almost doubles sales in one year.

The Mobile Market

Android, Apple, BlackBerry, Microsoft, Nokia and the other mobile players are involved in a pitch battle for smartphone sales. In that race, they are offering more features, improved hardware and a better ecosystem to tempt us into switching.

Overall, 293 million smartphones were sold globally in 2010, according to Strategy Analytics. Nokia led the way, selling over a 100 million units, but its market share has declined from over 38% in 2009 to just over 30% in 2010.

That erosion is due to ever increasing sales from Apple, who saw a 98% yearly increase in sales and is now just half a percent behind second placed BlackBerry in terms of market share. Nokia is also being hit by the rise of Android phones from a wide number of makers. 

Microsoft's (which announced its quarterly figures today) newcomer, Windows Phone 7, has shipped over two million licenses to vendors, but has offered no other sales information. It's a slow but sure start and the company will bring updates to its firmware, putting it on a more competitive footing in 2011.

Inside the Box

To attract even more users, the market is undergoing a rapid shift in pace. Android is selling across the market -- cornering the lower end with budget devices for people who can't justify an iPhone or a business-focused BlackBerry, while high-end Androids compete with iPhone-class devices.

All makers are offering regular firmware updates to add new features, with regular hardware refreshes for more processing power and additional gadgets. One such maker, BlackBerry, is seeing rising sales on the back of its operating system 6.

In future though, as device sales level out, the big money will be found in app stores where almost anyone can make a buck or million by leveraging their existing data or coming up with a unique or niche app. Gartner reckons that app stores will be worth US$ 58 billion by 2014.

Up Next...

The first shots in the 2011 round of this battle will see the launch of the fifth generation iPhone, more phones running on 4G networks and Android's 3.0 operating system. There is never a dull moment in the world of smartphones and we haven't even mentioned tablets yet.

For content-focused companies, the mission will be to ensure that your sites, data and applications are available across the widest range of devices. Content creation sites should make sure their users can update content from any device in the simplest way possible.