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Android pushes past iPhone, RIM in U.S. smartphone share, says study

Mar 4, 2011 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Android represented 29 percent of U.S. smartphone subscriber share through January, for the first time taking a slim lead over Apple iOS and RIM BlackBerry, says Nielsen. The study also found HTC and Motorola were still out front of Samsung in the U.S. Android market, while Android is more popular among younger people than other smartphone platforms.

Android made up 29 percent of U.S. smartphone market share in January, breaking a statistical tie with Apple's iOS and Research in Motion's BlackBerry platforms by growing two percentage points from December, according to the Nielsen Company.

However, Nielsen also noted that while Android handsets might have a slight edge over the iPhone and BlackBerry-powered gadgets, RIM and Apple lord over other companies as device makers, "since they are the only ones creating and selling smartphones with their respective operating systems."

U.S. smartphone market share by OS, Nov. 2010 – Jan. 2011

Source: Nielsen
(Click to enlarge)

HTC is third among vendors, accounting for the highest percentage of Android smartphones, as well as Microsoft Windows Mobile or Windows Phone 7 phones. The company, which has been selling the Android-based HTC Evo Shift 4G since January, has a litany of Android sets on tap for 2011 to bolster its lead. These include the HTC Thunderbolt and HTC Merge CDMA world phone (pictured below, right).

Motorola was next as a purveyor of Android handsets, as 10 percent of smartphone owners had a Motorola Android device, with only one percent still using a Windows-based Motorola phone. Motorola aims to up its Android market share this quarter with the availability of its Atrix 4G dual-core smartphone (below, left) on AT&T's network for $200. The device plugs into a Motorola Laptop Dock, which consumers may pair with the phone at purchase for $500. 

Motorola, which also just launched its Xoom Android 3.0 tablet, is expected to ship its next major Droid smartphone, the Bionic, on Verizon Wireless next quarter. 

Samsung, whose Galaxy S devices have sold more than 10 million units since their launch last summer, according to the handset vendor, commanded only five percent of Android share in the U.S., according to Nielsen. Note, however, that Nielsen's numbers represent subscribership, not sales - a number of studies have suggested that Samsung has been taking the lead in Android sales both worldwide and in the U.S. in recent months.

Samsung's last big Android handset offering was the Google branded Nexus S, launched on T-Mobile in December. However, Samsung has the Galaxy S II (pictured at right) coming down the pike later this year.

It's important to note that while Android handset makers are busy pumping out stylish new handsets, Apple's iPhone is still the hottest smartphone in the world, shipping more than 100 million units. The company is expected to launch the iPhone 5 this summer.

RIM's BlackBerry device share is lagging, as the company appears focused on its PlayBook tablet more than banging out hot new BlackBerry handsets.

Microsoft Windows Phone 7 is on quite a slower timetable. With handsets launched to AT&T and T-Mobile in 2010, the platform has been slow to catch on. However, Sprint just announced an HTC Arrive model due this month, and Microsoft has landed Nokia as another handset maker on which to put its software, so that platform should ramp by 2012.

U.S. smartphone market share by OS and subscriber age, Nov. 2010 – Jan. 2011

Source: Nielsen
(Click to enlarge)

Nielsen also posted an interesting chart showing the same Jan. 2011 U.S. smartphone ownership data by age. Here, Android shows a notable advantage among younger consumers, ages 18-24. Skewing the oldest are Palm/WebOS and Symbian, according to the study.

This year, most of the same operating systems and vendors will be battling it out in the fast-growing tablet market. A Gartner study this week says that tablet sales will slow the PC market, which has only recently started rebounding from the recession. The PC market will grow 10.5 percent over 2010 — instead of the 15.9 percent Gartner predicted earlier — reaching 387.8 million units in 2011, says Gartner. Through 2012, the market will grow by 13.6 percent, versus an earlier projected 14.8 percent, to 440.6 million units, says the study.


The Nielsen study on U.S. smartphone subscriber share may be found here.

Clint Boulton is a writer for our sister publication eWEEK.

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