Android reigns on US smart phones

By Troy Wolverton
San Jose Mercury News

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Google’s Android software continued its rocket-like ascent over the summer, ending the third quarter with the dominant market share in the United States among smart-phone operating systems and a solid No. 2 spot globally.

Manufacturers installed Android on 9.1 million smart phones shipped in the United States between July 1 and Sept. 30, according to Canalys, a technology research firm, in a report released Monday. That gave the software 43.6 percent of the smart-phone market during the period, up from 34 percent in the second quarter of this year and just 5.4 percent in the third quarter last year.

Worldwide, manufacturers shipped 20.3 million Android phones in the third quarter. That was up a whopping 1,297 percent from the same period last year and gave Android 25.1 percent of the global market. That put it second to Symbian, sponsored by Nokia and predominantly found on its phones, which had 37 percent of the market.

Android market share grew at the expense of Symbian’s – and that of every other major smart-phone operating systems, according to Canalys’ data.

It’s difficult to see anything slowing Android’s momentum in the near term, said Chris Jones, a Canalys analyst. More carriers and manufacturers around the world are adopting the software, and it’s starting to show up in budget-priced phones.

“It’s easy to see how that accelerates the rise of Android,” Jones said.

Canalys’ research echoes that of NPD Group, which was also released Monday. According to NPD, whose data estimates the numbers of phones sold to consumers rather than the number shipped to retailers, Android was installed on 44 percent of the smart phones sold in the United States in the third quarter, up from 33 percent in the second quarter.

NPD attributed Android’s rise in part to strong sales of a growing number of high-end phones, such as the Motorola Droid X. And much of the software’s market share gains have come out of the share formerly held by Research In Motion’s BlackBerry operating system, the report noted. BlackBerry’s share of the market fell from 28 percent in the second quarter to 22 percent in the most recent period.

Although Apple sold 91 percent more iPhones in the third quarter than it did in the year ago period, it merely held its own in the two market share reports, thanks to the rapid growth of Android phone sales. According to Canalys, Apple’s iOS, which among smart phones is exclusive to the iPhone, captured 26.2 percent of the U.S. smart-phone market in the third quarter. That was up from 21.7 percent in the second quarter, but down from 28.2 percent in the same period a year earlier.

Worldwide, iOS had 17.4 percent of the market. That was up from the second quarter, when iOS held 13.5 percent, but down from the year-ago period, when it held 17.8 percent.

Apple did, however, have something to crow about. Among smart phones shipped in United States in the third quarter, the iPhone 4 ranked no. 1, with 26 percent of the market, according to Canalys. NPD also ranked the iPhone as the top selling smart phone in the period.

NPD said Apple did well, considering that the iPhone is only available through AT&T in the United States. Recent reports indicate that the device will soon be available on Verizon, which is the most popular network in the United States. If so, that could shake up the market, both for the iPhone and for Android, said Jones.

“That will be an interesting dynamic to see playing out,” he said.