iPhone Holding on Against Android as RIM Collapses

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According to analytics firm comScore , smartphone OS market share continues trending Google’s way in the U.S. Counting some 75 million mobile subscribers for the three-month rolling average ending in March, Android climbed to 34.7 percent, up from 28.7. That six-percentage-point increase is less than Android’s growth in the previous quarter, but still big. Apple saw a little growth, from 25 to 25.5 percent, which was about double that of the previous three-month period. The rise can possibly be attributed to some 2.2 million Verizon iPhones sold during the quarter, though the collapse of RIM is probably having a larger impact.

The BlackBerry maker saw its share decline to 27.1 percent, down 4.5 percent from three months ago. To put that in perspective, a year ago RIM accounted for about 40 percent of smartphone OS market share in the U.S. It’s hard to imagine anything worse than that, except for Microsoft and Palm, both of which have seen their market share halved from a year ago. While HP remains flat at 2.8 percent of the market, Microsoft dipped from 7.7 to 7.5 percent, suggesting Windows Phone 7 has failed to stop the company’s decline.

What this means for Apple is that, simply by not failing like its competitors, and even without a new iPhone in June, Apple will pass RIM in terms of U.S. smartphone OS market share this summer. (It already did so in the global market.) Not surprisingly, the same can be said for handset share, too.

Apple is closing on RIM in the race among handset OEMs, with the iPhone climbing from 6.8 percent to 7.9 percent in the last three months. Currently fourth in the U.S., Apple will pass RIM in the next three months, as the Canadian company saw its own share of handsets decline from 8.5 to 8.4 percent. In third, Motorola dropped nearly a full percentage point, down to 15.8 percent. If current trends continue — and there’s nothing to suggest they won’t — Apple could be the third-largest manufacturer of phones in the U.S. by this time next year.

Going back to Android’s dominance in smartphone operating systems, it should be noted that including tablets like the iPad and handhelds like the iPod touch, the numbers change drastically. According to comScore, as of just last month, the combined installed base of iOS users was some 59 percent greater than that of Android users. That’s important because, to date, Android tablets have failed to significantly impact the tablet market. Currently, there is no competition for the iPod touch, though Samsung is launching the Galaxy Player against Apple’s media player supermajority. Good luck with that.

The takeaway here is that accounting for mobile operating systems across devices, instead of just on smartphones, Google’s chances of achieving the kind of dominance in mobile computing that Microsoft did with traditional computers is much less likely. That means the iOS platform won’t become a niche market the way the Mac did in the late ’90s, and that’s what really matters for Apple’s customers.

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