Android Sales Overtake iPhone in the U.S.

Sales of Google Android phones in the U.S. are rising so quickly, the devices have outsold Apple handsets for the first time on record. New smartphone subscribers choosing Google phones accounted for 27 percent of U.S. smartphone sales, the Nielsen Company will announce this morning, nudging past the 23 percent share held by Apple. But Android isn’t just a U.S. phenomenon: Canalys today estimates that Android handset sales grew 886 percent worldwide from the year ago quarter.

It’s easier to show stellar growth in the beginning of  a product cycle, but Android is nearly two years old. One could make the valid argument that Android really began to mature over the past year with Android 2.1, so from that standpoint, Google’s platform is still an infant when compared to iOS4, BlackBerry and other mobile operating systems. But the uptake of Android among handset-makers is another factor in such growth. Motorola’s Mobile Device division has swung from losses to profits on the back of Android, for example. And HTC — once primarily a Windows Mobile phone maker — embraced Android even as Microsoft’s mobile platform is undergoing a major facelift. The result? HTC revenues were up 66 percent in June from a year ago.

As hot a seller as Google Android phones are right now, its user base isn’t the most satisfied with their device. When surveying current Android device owners, Nielson found that 71 percent would buy an Android phone again. That sounds like a high loyalty rating, but it falls noticeably short when asking iPhone owners about their next handset — 89 percent are happy with iOS4 and plan to buy a future Apple handset.

Both the Android and iOS4 platforms still trail the 33 percent U.S. share held by Research in Motion’s BlackBerry devices, but for many, BlackBerry needs an overhaul. One half of the current BlackBerry owners surveyed don’t want another RIM device when it comes time to upgrade, but instead are looking at replacements running either Google’s or Apple’s mobile platform. Even with the top market share spot in the U.S., RIM share has been trending down because the current devices are seen as inferior when it comes to browsing or offering apps. That should change tomorrow as RIM is holding a press event where it is widely expected the company will debut its new BlackBerry 6 operating system and potentially new devices, such as a tablet.

Given that the U.S. currently has the largest smartphone user base — Canalys estimates 14.7 million smartphones were purchased in the U.S. last quarter — it’s easy to overlook the current king of smartphone sales globally: Nokia. In the second quarter of 2010, the Finnish phone-maker sold 23.8 million handsets. Nokia saw a 41 percent growth rate over the prior year’s second quarter sales, which sounds positive, but when compared to Android’s 886 percent gain, Nokia’s growth pales in comparison. The overall smartphone market is growing, which is lifting sales of nearly all. But some — like Android — are clearly growing far faster than others.

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