While Android (s goog) has come on like gangbusters, Apple’s iOS (s aapl) has pushed aside BlackBerry to become the top smartphone platform in the U.S. as of October, according to Nielsen Co., and the most desired smartphone for future purchases. Nielsen said Apple earned its place with a 27.9 percent share of the smartphone market, displacing former No. 1 BlackBerry (s rimm), which has 27.4 percent while Android has 22.7 percent. Among all likely smartphone shoppers, 30 percent desire an iPhone, followed by Android (28 percent), RIM (13 percent) and Windows Mobile (6 percent) (s msft). Nielsen said three out of 10 mobile phone owners (29.7 percent) now own a smartphone, up from 25 percent in the second quarter and 28 percent in the third quarter.
The figures indicate that even with the growth of Android, Apple’s iPhone is still the most coveted among smartphone shoppers. That Android has been eclipsing iOS in recent sales speaks more to the availability of Android devices and less to waning appeal of the iPhone. This is good news for Apple, which is expected to launch an iPhone on Verizon (s vz) early next year, opening up distribution on the largest wireless network in the U.S.
Still, Android is poised for major growth, especially among new smartphone customers. Nielsen said among current feature phone owners interested in buying a smartphone, Android is their top choice at 28 percent followed by the iPhone at 25 percent and BlackBerry at 11 percent. The iPhone enjoys more support among current smartphone owners, with 35 percent interested in buying an iPhone, compared to 28 percent for Android.
While the iPhone remains the most desired smartphone among 18 – 34 year olds and 55-and-over users, Android is tops among 35 – 55 year olds. That suggests Android could be headed for solid growth, as first-time smartphone owners and older mobile subscribers turn to it as their first smartphone.
Interestingly, the iPhone is clearly more popular with women, with 30.9 percent saying they desire an Apple phone compared to 22.8 percent of women interested in an Android device. For men, the competition is closer, but tilted in favor of Android 32.6 percent over iOS 28.6 percent. RIM, meanwhile, has its work cut out for it. BlackBerry, which was the top smartphone in the third quarter, now trails iOS, and isn’t heavily desired by current feature phone owners. That spells trouble in a market that’s growing fast.
It may be confusing to hear the back and forth statistics on which is ahead: iOS or Android. But with 7 out of 10 cell phone owners yet to buy a smartphone, there’s a lot of runway ahead. That should be encouraging for Microsoft and HP (s hpq), as they try to get back into the smartphone race and a warning to Apple and Google to stay on their game.
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