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Android sales said to surpass iPhone

May 11, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

The NPD Group says U.S. sales of Android smartphones have surpassed Apple's iPhone to take the second spot behind Research in Motion (RIM), with 28 percent of the market. Meanwhile, Sprint has joined Verizon in turning its back on Google's Nexus One, says eWEEK.

According to the NPD Group, RIM's BlackBerry operating system (OS) continues to lead the U.S. smartphone market with 36 percent of first quarter sales, but Android has supplanted Apple's OS for the iPhone to take second position at 28 percent. Apple fell to third place at 21 percent, says the study.

Carrier distribution and promotion played a major role in Apple's first-quarter drop relative to Android and RIM, suggest the NPD Group. "In order to compete with the iPhone, Verizon Wireless has expanded its buy-one-get-one offer beyond RIM devices to now include all of their smartphones," stated Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis for NPD.

Although the NPD Group doesn't mention it, another possible reason for a relative drop in iPhone 3GS sales is that Apple has entered a predictable slow period for the phone before the expected June or July release of the iPhone 4.0.

As a result of Verizon's promotions, Verizon enjoyed particularly strong sales of the Motorola Droid (pictured), as well as HTC's Droid Eris, and RIM's Blackberry Curve, says the research firm. While AT&T still led other mobile carriers in the smartphone market in the first quarter with 32 percent, based primarily on sales of the iPhone 3GS, Verizon Wireless almost overtook it with 30 percent share, according to the study. T-Mobile followed with 17 percent, and Sprint comprised 15 percent share, says the NPD Group.

Mobile providers will continue to push pricing promotions for smartphones, says the research firm, but increasing competition will also force them to offer a variety of data plan options to keep pace. "Recent previews of BlackBerry 6, the recently announced acquisition of Palm by HP, and the pending release of Windows Phone 7 demonstrates the industry's willingness to make investments to address consumer demand for smartphones and other mobile devices," stated Rubin.

According to the NPD Group, the overall U.S. mobile market saw a slight drop in sales in the first quarter, with average prices rising five percent year-to-year to $88, due to the growth of smartphone market share. Smartphone unit prices, however dropped 3 percent since Q1 2009, averaging $151, says the research firm.

Wide differences in smartphone sales estimates

The NPD Group study echoes a number of studies that have shown a remarkable increase in Android smartphone sales since the Motorola Droid and several other high-profile phones hit the market for the 2009 holiday shopping season. Yet, the NPD numbers, which are said to be based on more than 150,000 completed online consumer research surveys each month, go far beyond other indicators.

For example, in early April, ComScore estimated that in a three-month period concluding at the end of February (i.e., not including March, as does NPD), Android phones represented only 9 percent of the market, or less than a third of the NPD Group's calculation.

While Android was said by ComScore to be the fastest growing of the OS platforms, moving up from 3.8 percent only three months before, it still trailed RIM (42.1 percent), Apple (25.4 percent), and Microsoft (15.1 percent). The latter was not even listed on the NPD Group list, but was presumably in fourth place.

Some of the differences in smartphone estimates may be based on the definition of "smartphone," as well as whether the sample includes corporate sales. The NPD Group Mobile Phone Track sales figures do not include corporate/enterprise sales, which might cause relatively lower numbers for RIM and Microsoft, for example. However, it would not likely explain Android's rise vs. the iPhone.

 Et tu, Sprint?

Sprint confirmed to our sister publication eWEEK that it will not support Google's HTC-manufactured Nexus One smartphone (pictured at right), according to a story by eWEEK's Clint Boulton. A Sprint spokesperson noted that the company wanted to focus all its efforts on the HTC Evo 4G (pictured below, left), writes Boulton.

In late April, Verizon Wireless announced it was reversing its plans to offer the HTC-manufactured Nexus One. In Verizon's case, the decision appeared to be based on the arrival of yet another high-end HTC-made phone — the Droid Incredible.

Sprint announced back in March that it would be the third U.S. carrier to officially carry the HTC-manufactured, Google-branded Nexus One. The phone first appeared on T-Mobile in January, and was also made available in an unlocked version from Google itself. One bright spot for Google is that Vodafone recently announced that it is now carrying the phone in the UK.

The Nexus One has had its share of problems, including spotty 3G coverage on T-Mobile's network, but the recent retreat by Verizon and Sprint is primarily due to the arrival of the more feature-rich Droid Incredible and Evo 4G, writes Boulton. Still, he allows that the mobile providers are also sending Google a message showing their displeasure. The carriers were upset that the primary force behind Android launched its own self-branded phone, cutting them out by selling it over its own WebStore.

Handset vendors such as Motorola and Samsung are likely just as miffed over the Nexus One experiment, as well as with Google's ongoing favoritism with HTC. Some have even speculated that a rumored acquisition by Motorola of mobile developer Azingo shows that the company is distancing itself from Google — and possibly even Android — due to unhappiness over the Nexus One.

The Nexus One may not be the raging success expected by Google and the mobile industry, but with sales of 250,000 to 300,000 units, according to Boulton, it has hardly been a total flop.


More information on the NPD Group's Mobile Phone Track may be found here. An eWEEK story on the study should be here.

The eWEEK story on Sprint taking a pass on the Nexus One should be here.

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