Michelle Clancy ©RapidTVNews | 13-09-2011

While still No. 1, Nokia's Symbian OS continues to lose significant ground in smartphone market share, while video-friendly Android has overtaken Apple to become the second-most popular smartphone platform in Europe.

comScore research uncovers that Symbian has seen a 16.1% year-on-year drop-off, tumbling to a 37.8% market share. Meanwhile, just over a fifth (22.3%) of European smartphone users reported having an Android device during the three months leading up to 31 July, representing a 16% gain. Apple, meanwhile, increased only marginally year over year (1.2%) to 20.3%, tumbling to third place, despite the launch of the iPhone 4 last July.

Android smartphones from a variety of manufacturers continue to flood the market in a veritable Droid invasion, while the OS continues to get stronger. Apple does have a ray of hope, however, with the long-awaited iPhone 5 expected to hit the market later this fall.

Symbian's ray of hope may be much slimmer, however. The drop-off for Symbian is no real surprise: Nokia announced last February that it would say farewell to its proprietary Symbian operating system and instead start to build smartphones on Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 OS, with release dates in time for the holiday shopping season (some recent reports say those release dates are pushed back to early 2012).

Around the world, Android and Apple iPhone have been steadily eating away at its market share as the Symbian OS has proven to be unable to keep up with cutting edge smartphone functionality – in reality, it’s a pale shadow of the No. 1 global handset status it enjoyed just two years ago. In terms of volume, in the second quarter, Nokia shipped 16.7 million smartphones, falling behind Samsung (19 million) and Apple (20.3 million), according to ABI Research. So a switch-up can come none too soon, though some were shocked Nokia didn't ink a deal with the better-entrenched Android.

As it stands, Nokia and Microsoft are two mobile underdogs that will need to bring their respective strengths to bear to achieve their global goals for success. comScore said that Microsoft’s share of the European smartphone market dropped by 4.8% year on year to 6.7%, despite launching WP7 last year. Despite its setbacks, Nokia still commands a big incumbent position in many markets and has the manufacturing clout to help Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 gain the global distribution and critical mass it needs to achieve a significant position in the mobile OS landscape.

Meanwhile, according to AllThingsD, Nokia will pursue a carrier distribution model rather than the unlocked tactic it has been known for in the past. That strategy puts it in line with the typical way that consumers in the U.S. and Canada are used to buying their mobile phones. Microsoft helps here: It brings to the table crucial relationships with carriers like AT&T, which Nokia lacks.