Android is gaining on all the major smartphone platforms in the U.S., though it was only the fourth-most-used mobile operating system in May, market data firm comScore reported on Thursday.
The market share of Google's open-source OS grew to 13 percent of all U.S. smartphone users in May, from just 9 percent in February, according to comScore's MobiLens service. Meanwhile, Research In Motion's leading BlackBerry platform inched down 41.7 percent from 42.1 percent and the Apple iPhone lost a full percent of the market, ending with a 24.4 percent share in May. Microsoft barely held on to third place as it fell to 13.2 percent.
Google's strategy of allowing multiple handset makers to sell different versions of Android on a wide range of handsets appears to be paying off, according to comScore analyst Mark Donovan.
"I don't see any sign that momentum around Android is slowing," Donovan said. Though Apple remains strong thanks to the regular updates to its OS, App Store and phones, Donovan does not expect the iPhone 4 to significantly shift the market when numbers start to come out that reflect the recently introduced iPhone 4. However, an end to AT&T's exclusive deal to sell the iPhone in the U.S. would probably boost the platform's market share, he said.
As for Microsoft, much depends on how its upcoming Windows Phone 7 system is received. The company is betting on a business model similar to Apple's, with a tightly defined user interface and application store, despite the fact that it will rely on other companies to build devices, Donovan said.
One beneficiary -- or driver -- of Android's growing popularity is Samsung Electronics, which has introduced several handsets in the U.S. based on Android. Between February and March, Samsung rose from third to first place among mobile-phone makers. In May, 22.4 percent of mobile subscribers in the U.S. used a Samsung device, up from 21.4 percent in February, according to comScore.
Consumers have jumped on Samsung phones, some of them powered by Android, that have offered smartphone-like features for less than smartphone prices, Donovan said.
"Samsung has been excellent at filling that niche of ... very inexpensive or giveaway phones that give consumers an awful lot of power," he said. Samsung offers several Android handsets through various carriers, and smartphones from its high-end Android 2.1 Galaxy S line are set to go on sale at multiple U.S. carriers over the next few months.
However, the U.S. market for mobile phones is a tight one, with LG and Motorola each trailing Samsung by less than two percentage points, comScore said. RIM, with 8.7 percent of the device market, and Nokia, with 8.1 percent, round out the top five. Apple, which lacks the broad product lines of those manufacturers, had 5.1 percent of the handset market in May.
The MobilLens service is based on monthly surveys of between 10,000 and 12,000 U.S. mobile users over the age of 13, Donovan said. There were 234 million U.S. residents over 13 using mobile phones in May, according to comScore.