According to figures released today, Android has doubled its market share of worldwide smartphone sales in Q3 of 2011. 

The stats from Gartner show quite astonishing growth, as 52.5% of all smartphones sold in this period were built on the Android OS, up from just over 25% in the same period a year ago.

Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner, said that Android has benefitted from more mass-market offerings, a weaker competitive environment and the lack of exciting new products on alternative operating systems such as Windows Phone 7 and RIM.

Apple’s iOS market share suffered from delayed purchases as consumers waited for the new iPhone. Continued pressure is impacting RIM’s performance, and its smartphone share reached its lowest point so far in the U.S. market, where it dropped to 10%.

Smartphone sales reached 115m units overall, accounting for 26% of all mobile phone sales, growing only marginally from 25% in the previous quarter.

Strong smartphone growth in China and Russia helped increase overall volumes in the quarter. But demand for smartphones stalled in advanced markets such as Western Europe and the U.S. as many users waited for new flagship devices featuring new versions of the key operating systems.

The research stated that it was likely that many consumers held off from upgrading in the third quarter as they were waiting for promotions on other new high-end models that were launched in the run-up to the fourth quarter holiday season.

Others would have been waiting for the rumoured new iPhone, and associated price cuts on older models.

Nokia continues to be the worldwide leader in mobile device sales, accounting for 23.9% of global sales, with dual-SIM phones and feature phones maintained Nokia’s momentum in emerging markets.

Gartner pointed to heavy marketing from both Nokia and Microsoft to push the new Lumia devices as contributing to expected improvement in the fourth quarter of 2011. 

Samsung became the top smartphone manufacturer worldwide as sales to end users tripled year over year to reach 24 million, but Gartner believes that Apple will bounce back in the fourth quarter because of its strongest ever preorders for the iPhone 4S in the first weekend after its announcement.

Research In Motion (RIM), the makers of Blackberry, said its subscriber base had surpassed 8m in the UK, despite Gartner figures showing RIM’s smartphone share dropping to 10% in the US.

The company also announced the creation of a new cloud-based music service in the UK today, which will cost £4.99 a month and allows users to build a profile of 5O tracks which can be shared with friends using the BlackBerry Messenger service.