Android threatens to make iPhone a niche also-ran

Nielsen reports that Android sales are outpacing rival platforms like Apple iOS and RIM BlackBerry

New statistics from Nielsen show that smartphone buyers in the United States are favoring the Android platform. With that trend, Android continues to gain on Apple iOS and RIM BlackBerry in overall market share, and is on a trajectory to become the leading smartphone platform and bury the iPhone in the process.

The report from Nielsen illustrates how the array of Android smartphone options, the broader availability of Android from all four major wireless carriers, and the sheer volume of Android devices is continuing its march to dominate smartphones. The control exerted by Apple over hardware and software development, and the exclusivity agreement with AT&T hinder the success of the iPhone, and will eventually relegate it to a niche role with a loyal following similar to the bit part Mac OS X plays in the PC world.

It is interesting to see what a dominant role the top three smartphone platforms play in the market, and how closely matched they are becoming. In terms of overall smartphone market share, Nielsen shows RIM leading with 31 per cent, followed by iOS with 28 per cent, and Android coming in third at 19 per cent. Adding those up, these three mobile platforms occupy 78 per cent of the market--leaving only 22 per cent for Microsoft, Palm, Nokia, and others to fight for.

At the risk of being perceived as an Apple iPhone apologist, I would like to see the results of the next six months--painting a more accurate reflection of how the iPhone 4 is doing against the array of Android smartphones. These results only cover one month of data from the time of the iPhone 4 launch, which means that the months prior are probably comprised of artificially low iPhone sales as users anxiously awaited the next generation model.

For that matter--while I understand that the iPhone 4 represents both a smartphone and mobile platform, I'd like to see the breakdown on the smartphone level. In other words, how does the iPhone 4--as a smartphone--compare against the sales and share occupied by any other single Android smartphone? It wouldn't change the fact that the sheer volume of Android devices makes the platform on the whole overwhelming, but I am curious if any single Android smartphone is even in the same ballpark as the iPhone 4.

I imagine that the iPhone 4 sales are significantly higher than any single Android smartphone. How else could iOS have more market share or be anywhere near the rate of Android adoption given the diverse collection of Android smartphones available?

Aside from satisfying my own curiosity, though, that exercise has little value in the real world. The fact is that the Apple iPhone is one device from one wireless carrier (at least for now), and RIM's BlackBerry is a stagnant and waning platform--leaving the field wide open for Android to ascend to the top and dominate the smartphone market.

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Tags GoogleApplePhonesconsumer electronicsat&tRIM BlackBerrynielseniphone 4Cell Phones

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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