Nielsen: Android, Apple Stay On Top Of U.S. Smartphone Picture

It’s still a pretty wide-open race, but the U.S. smartphone market seems to be settling into a predictable order according to Nielsen’s latest data. Android continues to lead the operating system race, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) is the most popular smartphone company, and the number of people buying a BlackBerry is dwindling by the month.

Android now has 39 percent of the U.S. market split between HTC, Motorola (NYSE: MMI) and Samsung in that order according to data released Thursday. That’s up slightly from last month’s Nielsen data, when Android had 38 percent. The launch of the Verizon iPhone doesn’t seem to have damaged Android’s momentum, although exactly how much more share Android partners can garner is up in the air.

That’s because Apple clearly isn’t going anywhere, with 28 percent of the market, also up slightly over the last month despite the hype leading up to the expected launch of the iPhone 5 within the next couple of months. And because RIM’s new BlackBerry 7 phones are expected to launch relatively soon, which could at least put the brakes on an epic slide in RIM’s U.S. market share over the last six months. The BlackBerry now holds just a 20 percent share of the market, down again compared to the past month and down sharply from the 34 percent of the market it enjoyed this time last year.

The picture for Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) is a little fuzzy: it still commands 9 percent of the market, the same figure as last month, but those numbers are split between Windows Phone 7 devices and the now-ancient Windows Mobile. It would make sense that Windows Phone 7 devices are replacing Windows Mobile devices as they are retired, meaning that the new platform is at least growing, but Microsoft is still searching for a spark that could really transform its position.