The contrast between the mobile-computing fortunes of Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Research in Motion (NSDQ: RIMM) in the U.S. were neatly illustrated by a Comscore (NSDQ: SCOR) market share report Friday: they’re heading in opposite directions, and it doesn’t take an expert observer of the mobile industry to know which one is which.
Out of the 72.5 million smartphones sold in the U.S. during the first quarter (a 15 percent jump from the previous quarter), those running Google’s Android operating system are more popular than ever, gaining six percentage points of market share during the first quarter to lead the market with 34.7 percent. RIM, on the other hand, suffered due likely to what its own co-CEO called an “aging” high-end product lineup, losing 4.5 percentage points during the quarter to narrowly avoid falling past Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) in third place. RIM now has 27.1 percent of the market as measured by operating system, while Apple inched up a tad from 25 percent of the market last quarter to 25.5 percent.
When it comes to the broader mobile market, which includes phones not quite as smart as the iPhone, Atrix or BlackBerry, Samsung is the leader when comparing handset vendors, with a very small decrease in its market share to 24.5 percent. Apple was the biggest gainer in the top 5 when the market was measured this way, gaining 1.1 percentage points to take 7.9 percent of the market, which is even more impressive when you consider Apple doesn’t sell any of the cheaper and more widely used “feature” phones that companies like Samsung, LG (SEO: 066570), and Motorola (NYSE: MMI) crank out in large volume.
The report doesn’t include tablets or mobile devices without phones, which usually leaves Apple supporters in a huff because sales of the iPod Touch and iPad are therefore excluded from the mobile operating system comparison. Comscore released a separate report last month that tracked the market through that lens. Clearly, however, smartphones remain the much larger opportunity: Apple sold 4.69 million iPads in the first quarter worldwide, while 72.5 million smartphones were sold in the U.S. alone.
IDC released a look at the worldwide smartphone picture earlier today that goes to show how much the smartphone market has changed: once more popular in Europe and Asia, smartphones are being snapped up by U.S. consumers. Just under 100 million smartphones were sold worldwide in the first quarter, and if Comscore and IDC are in the same ballpark when it comes to their estimates, that means the U.S. market is driving much of the growth.