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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Android Market Share Now 1 of Every 3 U.S. Phones

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New numbers released by Comscore show that Android-based phones are continuing to take a chunk out of the market share of competing devices. And smartphones based on Google's mobile OS now eat up 33 percent of the U.S. market, or one out of every three phones sold.

RIM was the hardest hit in this latest batch of metrics, dropping 4.1 percent of its market share between November 2010 and February 2011. The company still controls 28.9 percent of the U.S. market, however, which is a far stronger position than its similarly decreasing competitors: Microsoft shed 1.3 percent of its market share to drop to 7.7 percent in total, and Palm went down 1.1 percent to a total of 2.8 percent market share for February 2011.

To note, the indicated numbers are three-month averages, not indications of how well a particular manufacturer did in just one month. Nevertheless, February alone provided strong support for Apple–specifically, Apple's iPhone 4. According to Comscore, the Verizon iPhone 4 was the most-purchased handset in February, and these killer sales helped Apple dig its heels in the sand against the Android advance. The company even improved its market share by 0.2 percent between November 2010 and February 2011.

Although Google's new lead is impressive–Android jumped up seven percent in market share between November 2010 and February 2011–it's important to note that the numbers only indicate growth in U.S. markets.

"I believe Android will be stronger in the developing world than it is in the developed world," said Fred Wilson, venture capitalist and principal of Union Square Ventures, in response to the metrics. "And most of the growth in smartphones is going to come from the developing world in the next five to ten years."

As to why this could spell disaster for Apple at some point in the future, Business Insider's Henry Blodget notes that it's an issue of strategy: Google's Android growth is only compounded as the market standardizes to a common system–like Microsoft for desktop PCs or Facebook for social networking. If Google is able to provide the de facto operating system for a significant chunk of the market, then developers suddenly have an increased incentive to code Android first, others second. Insert downward spiral here.

Once a company has captured the market crown–its platform pushing past the tipping point that separates separating "option" from "industry standard" –it's just that much harder for competitors to unseat the king, even if they manage to release devices that are functionally superior to the status quo.

Google's Android OS is going for the shotgun while Apple's pulling out the laser, and the devices' corresponding market shares are starting to fall in line.


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