Looking at smartphone growth by the numbers, it's a cinch to predict that smartphone sales will continue to boom in 2010.

Whether smartphones ever become the handheld computing/communication devices that replace other computers remains to be seen, but they are already powerful and popular.

They have been popular enough, in fact, to sustain the mobile phone market during a recession, and they will continue to generate healthy growth for the sector into 2010, according to several analyst firms.

So that's the basis of the first prediction for 2010, and it's a safe one:

1. Smartphones will grab even an even bigger share of the overall mobile phone market.

Of the more than 1.2 billion mobile phones expected to ship globally in all of 2009, nearly 190 million will be smartphones, Frost & Sullivan recently estimated.

In 2010, nearly 1.3 billion mobile phones will ship globally, and 250 million of them will be smartphones, according to the analyst firm.

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Frost & Sullivan analyst Gerry Purdy predicts that in the US, where smartphone growth is robust, virtually all phones sold will be smartphones within five years.

Because of the global recession, mobile phone sales have experienced slower growth during the past 12 to 18 months, but the number of subscribers still grew during that period, while the growth in smartphone sales was "amazing" and was in line with what could be expected during a growth market, Purdy added.

Other research firms, including IDC, have noted record smartphone sales growth in the third quarter of 2009, with more growth to come.

2. The Android mobile operating system will take off.

That's a fairly safe prediction, given that several phone makers have announced Android-based models, which could bring the total number of Android devices introduced in 2010 to 36, Purdy noted.

With Motorola's Droid expected to hit 1 million in sales in its first quarter of availability, according to some researchers, a few of the dozens of other new Android devices could also sell well.

Motorola Droid Android smartphone

The Android operating system is expected to ship globally on 3.7 million smartphones in 2009, but that figure could more than double to 8.2 million in 2010 and Android could start to dominate the smartphone operating system market by 2014, Frost & Sullivan estimates.

By 2014, the Android could be the third most popular operating system, shipping on 65 million phones.

That would put it behind first-place Symbian OS, which is used on Nokia devices and is projected to ship on 233 million phones that year, and Research in Motions BlackBerry operating system, which will be on 92 million phones, according to Frost & Sullivan.

Gartner believes Android will do better than that, taking second place behind Symbian OS as early as 2012.

Android will benefit from being an open operating system - a fact that will interest a wide variety of application developers, Gartner noted.

Wireless carriers and manufacturers will also offer Android devices that differentiate themselves from one another.

It's possible that some Android phones will be designed for business users while others will be geared toward consumers, with the latter market segmented further into, say, those who prefer social networking over music, or vice versa.

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