Android knocking on iPhone's door

Android sale gains come at expense of RIM's BlackBerry OS, Nielsen reports

While the iPhone is still the most popular smartphone operating system in the United States, Android is hot on its trail and closing in fast.

Also read: 300,000 Android phones activated per day, claims Google

According to the latest data from Nielsen, the iPhone OS has captured 28.6% of the U.S. smartphone market share, followed closely by Research in Motion's BlackBerry OS (26.1%) and Google's Android (25.8%).

While Apple's market share over the past six months has remained steady in the 27% to 28% range, the market shares of BlackBerry OS and Android have been going in opposite directions. RIM was still the dominant mobile operating system just this past June, as it accounted for nearly one third of all U.S. smartphones at the time. Android, meanwhile, accounted for a mere 15% of U.S. smartphones in June 2010 before seeing its market share nearly double over the span of five months.

Android also has a lot of the momentum heading into 2011. According to Nielsen, 40.8% of customers who reported buying a new smartphone over the past six months purchased Android-based phones. iPhones accounted for 26.9% of new devices purchased over the past six months while BlackBerry devices accounted for 19.2% of new devices purchased over the last six months.

Nielsen also says that the share of smartphones in the overall mobile phone market has continued to grow steadily over the past year, since smartphones accounted for 24% of all mobile phones in use in June 2010 vs. 31% of all mobile phones in use in November 2010. Among users who had purchased new phones within the last six months, smartphones accounted for 34% of new devices in June 2010 vs. 45% of new devices in November 2010.

Since last January, Android has doubled its total market share in the mobile operating system market, and devices based on Android accounted for 44% of smartphones purchased in the third quarter of 2010, according to research firm ChangeWave. Research firm Gartner has projected that by the end of the year sales of Android devices will exceed those based on the BlackBerry OS and the iPhone OS, meaning that Android will trail only Symbian as the world's most-used mobile operating system.

Ever since its debut in the fall of 2007, Android has appeared on numerous popular smartphones for several carriers including Verizon's Motorola Droid and Sprint's HTC Evo 4G. Next year Google plans on releasing a new version of the Android OS that is catered specifically to tablet computers.

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