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Summary:

We’ve all heard the prediction that 2011 will be “the” year for Android, with more devices — handsets and tablets — based on the OS hittin…

Android Eating Apples
photo: Flickr / Jan Tik

We’ve all heard the prediction that 2011 will be “the” year for Android, with more devices — handsets and tablets — based on the OS hitting the market than ever before, and more apps developed for the platform (estimated now to be at 210,000 and counting). And if the last six months are anything to go by, in the U.S., Android is well on the way to being the dominating force in smartphones, unless Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) or RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) pull something radical off in the months ahead.

Some figures out today from Nielsen indicate that in the last six months, there were more Android devices purchased in the U.S. than devices based on any other smartphone platform. Taking the three dominant platforms of Apple’s iOS, RIM, and Android, the three were virtually neck-and-neck back in July. But while Google’s Android shot ahead in subsequent months, the other two actually saw declines:

Apple’s breakaway lead, which it picked up in previous years of growth, appears to be just enough for it to keep its leading position of 28.6 percent market share, compared to Android’s 25.8 percent.

But while it appears that Android is trailing behind RIM, Nielsen points out that RIM is in fact effectively in a statistical dead-heat with both Android and Apple’s iOS in a race that is too close to call. As with the previous graphic, the key thing is Android’s upward path, versus the flat/declining growth of the other two:

Looked at one way, these numbers are a testament to Android’s business model — executed so successfully by Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) in the PC world — of achieving ubiquity by creating a user-friendly OS and then putting it into as many devices as possible.

Looked at in another way, it’s a clear sign that if RIM and Apple do not want to lose more ground to Android, they will need to do something different from what they are doing now.

In RIM’s case, the PlayBook tablet is what everyone has been anticipating and could be just the thing to reassert RIM’s standing in the next generation of devices. In Apple’s case, it may well be starting to offer the iPhone with other carriers besides AT&T (NYSE: T) (not just Verizon, but the rest, too, as it does in other countries).

Both might also consider how and if they should try to develop devices at different price points, as Apple does with its iPod music players, to compete against the sub-$100 handsets in the Android portfolio.

This idea of a low-end smartphone will be key as more feature phone buyers tip into the smartphone camp. Nielsen says that in November, some 31 percent of consumers were still opting for feature phones:

Meanwhile, just as Android is filling out the lower end of the handset market, so too is it looking to make its mark on high-end devices: Verizon has been teasing out news about LTE devices, promising more details later this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Those devices will almost certainly be more examples of Android-based innovation, and another parcel secured in the OS land-grab.

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  1. Rimm will be the winner overall as it has the safest security system there is right now.

  2. “And if the last six months are anything to go by, in the U.S., Android is well on the way to being the dominating force in smartphones, unless Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) or RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) pull something radical off in the months ahead.”

    But if you look at the last two months – it looks like Android has stalled against Apple. Of course the buy-one-get-one free says over Christmas probably helped Android some. But if the iPhone hits Verizon over the next month or so – look out below Android as Verizon customers can finally buy the real thing.

  3. I had RIM went to Appl didn,t match RIM’s quality or performance..Leaving Appl and staying with RIM a better product and alot safer..

  4. Once again someone mistakes a rapid growth in market share for a successful business strategy. Both Android and Blackberry compete on price with the iPhone. Jobs [and I as a small shareholder] would much prefer a strong footprint in the market with great margins. My guess is that Apple has well over HALF the total profit in domestic cell phones today – and that this will grow with the Verizon iPhone launch.

  5. Android’s success in the US is deceiving because it’s essentially predicated on one factor – it’s available on all the carriers. If you’re on Verizon and want a web-capable phone, what else are you going to buy? It’s practically been a monopoly. The software is nice and the apps are catching up, but I’m unconvinced that their early success indicates a sticky platform. You can switch smartphone platforms almost as easily as you can switch TV brands. For texting, e-mail and the web, most people won’t find much difference between last year’s Droid and this year’s Windows Phone 7.

    When Google actually faces competition from MS and Apple (and RIM when they release a modern phone OS), Android will need to offer more compelling hardware and a consistent wave of headline-grabbing features to compete. Their sales will be affected by the tidal waves of press that Apple’s iPad and iPhone announcements will garner every spring and summer; generic plastic handsets will look dated next to the latest RIM and Apple designs; MS and Apple will have strong store presences that the Moto/HTC/Samsung’s won’t be able to match. It will be an interesting year.

  6. As usual, although these numbers include Android tablets like the Dell Streak and Samsung Galaxy Tab, they do not include iOS devices like the iPod Touch and iPad.

    When you compare all iOS devices against all Android devices, iOS is still double the size of Android in installed base. In October, iOS devices were selling at 270,000 per day peaking at 300,000 on some days versus 200,000 Android devices.

    The recent figure of 300,000 Android devices per day for Android will have to wait till Apple releases their December quarter figures before we can see if iOS is still in the lead in unit sales, but considering iPods and iPhone sales always surge pre-Christmas, this is almost a certainty.

    -Mart

  7. What can Apple and RIM do? Wait for the viruses on Android.

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