Android Still on Top; Now Crushing BlackBerry

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Google’s Android operating system solidified its place at the top of the charts in the U.S. with 44 percent of the market, according to a pair of reports out today.

While Android’s momentum shows no sign of let-up and Apple continues to hold its own, both are applying pressure to Research In Motion, which is hemorrhaging OS market share and was overtaken in handset sales by Apple in the third quarter.

According to NPD, which measures consumer purchases, Android’s share of the U.S. smartphone market in the third quarter increased 11 percentage points from the previous quarter while Apple’s share grew by 1 percentage point to 23 percent. Research In Motion’s share continued to tumble, dropping from 28 percent to 22 percent.

U.K. research firm Canalys, which arrived at similar U.S. numbers for the OS market, said that Nokia remained the top smartphone manufacturer worldwide with a 33 percent share, down from 38 percent in the second quarter. Apple took second with 17 percent, up from 13 percent last quarter, while RIM followed with 15 percent, a slide from 18 percent in the second quarter.

The Canalys numbers reflect the latest quarterly sales numbers from Apple and RIM, showing Apple eclipsing RIM for the first time. Apple also moved into fourth place in global handset sales, passing over RIM in the process. RIM is still the top vendor in Latin America with about 40 percent of the market but its prospects are looking tough with pressure from Apple and particularly Android, which appears to be eating into its sales. NPD reported that the iPhone 4 was the top-selling phone in the U.S., followed by the BlackBerry Curve, LG Cosmos, Motorola Droid X and HTC Evo 4G.

Nokia continues to hold the top spot in the five so-called BRIIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia and China, which bodes well for Nokia as those markets are growing 111 percent year-over-year, faster than the market overall which grew by 95 percent to 80.9 million shipped units. However Android, as my colleague Kevin has noted, could eat into Nokia’s share in places like India as it moves down market into cheaper smartphones.

That’s going to be a ongoing theme as smartphones work their way into more hands. The manufacturers and OS makers who can manage the growth in lower tier smartphones should enjoy a significant volume advantage. Nokia is already losing out on the lucrative high end of the market to Apple and is now facing the threat of Android outpacing sales in mid and lower-tier smartphones. Android shipments grew 1,309 percent year-over-year from 1.4 million units in the third quarter of 2009, according to Canalys, to more than 20 million units in the third quarter of this year, good enough for a quarter of the worldwide OS market.

Meanwhile, phones running a Windows operating system account for just 3 percent of the worldwide market, according to Canalys. With Windows Phone 7 shipping this month, Microsoft will have to claw its way back to relevance. Microsoft’s tight control on handset interface customization and its high-end specifications could limit how vendors differentiate Windows Phone 7 devices and how well they sell down market, said Canalys.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub. req’d):

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