Android vs. iPhone: Let's get ready to rumble

Smartphone fans, prepare the ring: Some new research is sure to send the Android-iPhone rivalry into overdrive.

Google's Nexus One smartphone

Google's Nexus One smartphone

Smartphone fans, prepare the ring: Some new research released this week is sure to send the Android-iPhone rivalry into overdrive.

With the Droid's debut, followed by the buzz surrounding Tuesday's expected revelation of the Nexus One, the Android mobile OS has certainly been basking in the spotlight lately. Now, a study by independent analysis firm ChangeWave Research finds the number of people planning to buy an Android phone is skyrocketing -- while the crowd eyeing the iPhone is slowly starting to slip.

Android and iPhone Interest

The study, based on a survey of about 4,000 consumers, shows interest in Android nearly tripling from September to December of 2009. In September, about 6 percent of respondents said an Android phone was in their future. By December, that number was up to 21 percent.

In the span of three months, Android shot ahead of BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Palm when it comes to consumer preference. The only platform still ahead of it: the iPhone.

The rate of change, however, may be where the numbers speak the loudest. In the same time period that Android saw a 250 percent growth in buyer interest, the iPhone experienced a 12.5 percent drop. To be sure, the iPhone still holds a healthy overall lead -- about 28 percent of people expressed interest in buying Apple's mobile device in December, compared to the 21 percent gunning for Android -- but the shifting trend is tough to ignore.

Smartphone Shifts

ChangeWave's research isn't alone; other recent analyses have shown similar shifts in the smartphone market. In December, ComScore found consumer interest in the Android platform had more than doubled since the summer. ComScore's numbers placed Android and iPhone nearly neck-and-neck: Seventeen percent of people surveyed by the company said they were headed to Android, while 20 percent were planning to make new iPhone purchases.

Android has also shown impressive growth in mobile ad impressions while the iPhone has stagnated, according to AdMob -- and even in the often criticized realm of apps, the platform is widely predicted to be on the brink of a massive explosion.

Hang on, though: Before you start digging a virtual grave (and incurring the ire of Apple fans worldwide), you should also look at the big picture. Yes, some expect Android to outpace the iPhone in sales within a matter of years. But does that mean the iPhone is facing certain doom? Don't count on it. Apple earned the honor of most profitable handset vendor in the world just a couple of months ago, according to Strategy Analytics. Even if Android steals a few pieces of its pie, Apple's pride and joy isn't going to shrivel up and die anytime soon.

Still, for what it's worth, the trends increasingly seem to suggest a changing of the guard is on the way. It may not be as dramatic as the always-popular "this-or-that killer" kind of scenario, but in this ring, it's where the real odds lie.

JR Raphael frequently covers mobile technology for both PC World and eSarcasm, his geek-humor getaway. Check out his new Facebook page: facebook.com/The.JR.Raphael.

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JR Raphael

PC World (US online)
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