Google’s Android operating system (OS) is now the most popular smartphone platform in China, according to a report from Analysys International that analysed sales in the world’s biggest smartphone market from the first quarter to fourth quarter of 2011.

Android’s share of sales more than doubled, according to Analysys, to rise to 68.4 percent from 33.6 percent. Those figures put it well ahead of Apple, which saw the percent of iOS device sales increase to 5.7 percent from 4.1 percent.

According to the report, Android is now China’s most popular smartphone operating system, taking the top spot from Nokia. The Finnish firm saw sales of its Symbian-powered devices plummet by more than half to now account for 18.7 percent.

analysys chart Report: Android now rules Chinas smartphone market, after doubling its sales in 2011

Nokia has more important fish to fry in China, after launching its Windows Phone-powered Lumia 800C, however the demise of Symbian marks a new era in China’s smartphone space.

However, the Analysys report contradicts recent findings from Statcounter, which suggested that Android was on the cusp of overtaking Nokia. Given that reports are subjective to measurement, and widely vary, it is certainly safe to say that, if it isn’t already ahead, Android will win-out over Nokia in China at some point this year.

Android’s dominance in China is not a big surprise and it is reflected in a number of other markets across the world. The operating system has a far greater range of devices than Apple and other rivals, while a number of its manufacturers produce affordable devices which are popular with consumers who are reluctant to splash out on a high-end smartphone.

A device like the iPhone can cost upwards of $790 (RNB 5,000) in China, making other options attractive to many.

Price could be less of an issue in the future, however. The two iPhone-selling operators in China are beginning to offer subsidised devices, although right now these require customers to lock themselves into long-term, expensive contracts. Over time, it is likely the price of deals may lower to make the iPhone more affordable to more consumers in China, but Android is likely to enlarge the gap in the meantime.

Yesterday we reported new research that suggested that there are now 21 million active iOS devices, although ownership is restricted to urban areas where more affluent Chinese live. This is likely a trend shared by other smartphone OSes, Android included.