LONDON: Smartphones that use Google's Android operating system are becoming increasingly dominant in Europe, taking a majority share of sales in four of the region's "big five" markets.

New data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech indicates that Android's share of the market in the UK, Spain, Germany, France and Italy grew from 38.8% in May 2011 to 60% in May 2012.

The operating system is doing best of all in Spain with a 79% share, followed by 69% in Germany, 56% in France, 52% in the UK and 47% in Italy.

Analysis accompanying the figures suggested that economic pressures – with the eurozone debt crisis still ongoing and markets including the UK and Spain officially re-entering recession – had boosted Android, whose phones often retail at a lower price than rival handsets from Apple and RIM.

In Spain, the Samsung Galaxy Mini, a budget handset, had become the nation's best-selling smartphone by May 2012, while Huawei, a low-cost Chinese brand, has racked up 200,000 unit sales in Germany so far in 2012.

Dominic Sunnebo, global consumer insight director at Kantar, said: "There was a period towards the start of this year where Android's share began to flatline. However, in the past few months, we have seen a surge in sales."

Despite Android's increased dominance of the European market, Apple's iPhone, which sells at a higher price point to rivals, nevertheless gained share in three of the five markets over the year.

The iPhone is most popular in the UK, where share rose from 16.6% to 29%, it also gained in Germany (17.1% to 18.2%) and Italy (19.8% to 21.9%).

RIM, maker of the BlackBerry handset range, lost ground in all five markets. The firm suffered its steepest national decline in the UK, where its share retreated from 20.6% in 2011 to 12.8% in 2012.

Data sourced from Kantar; additional content by Warc staff