Android, which Google acquired in 2005 and launched on phones in 2008, is used by almost all the major phone makers including HTC, LG,Motorola and Samsung.
It was the number one platform in 35 of the 56 countries Canalys tracks, resulting in a market share of 48 per cent, the research firm said.
By comparison, Apple, which shipped 20.3 million iPhones, is a distant second with a market share of 19 per cent but it overtook ailing Finnish handset maker Nokia as the world's largest individual smartphone vendor.
Samsung also overtook Nokia but Canalys said the South Korean handset maker could have done better.
"Samsung has failed to fully capitalise on Nokia's weakened state around the world, as the Finnish company rides out a challenging transitional period," Canalys analyst Chris Jones said.
"It's the best placed vendor to grow at Nokia's expense, taking advantage of its global scale and channel reach, but it hasn't yet done enough to capitalise on this, particularly in emerging markets."
Samsung, which sells Android smartphones as well as its own Bada branded devices, shipped some 17 million devices, a rise of 421 per cent versus a year ago.
Android's success however comes with a headache for Google and its vendors. Its Android mobile software has attracted a lawsuit from Oracle, while handset makers using the software have also been sued by both Apple and Microsoft, which claims an existing, perpetual license to Nortel patents.
Microsoft, whose own presence in the smartphone market is a mere 1 percent, receives money from deals reached with some Android handset makers but is pressing for more.