Android whips the iPhone in 2010 sales; will Apple celebrate?

Think the iPhone rules the world of smartphones and cool apps? Think again. The NPD group reports that in the first quarter of 2010, Android-based phones outsold iPhones by a good-size margin of 28% to 21%. Believe it or not, though, this may be good news for Apple.

Here's what a press release about the NPD Group's latest survey says about mobile operating systems sales for the first quarter of 2010:

"The Android operating system (OS) continued to shake up the U.S. mobile phone market in the first quarter (Q1) of 2010, moving past Apple to take the number-two position among smartphone operating systems, according to The NPD Group, a leading market research company. NPD's wireless market research reveals that based on unit sales to consumers last quarter the Android operating system moved into second position at 28 percent behind RIM’s OS (36 percent) and ahead of Apple’s OS (21 percent)."

Android sales have skyrocketed since the third quarter of 2009, when they were down around 4% or so, and the iPhone was in the upper twenties. In fact, since that time, the Android is the only platform to gain market share --- every other mobile platform has been falling, while Android gains at their expense. You can see that vividly in the chart below, published by MediaMemo, and based on NPD data.


There's no doubt that the numbers have been juiced by cut-rate deals by Verizon and others. Still there's no disguising it: Android-based phones are soundly beating the iPhone.

So why might this be good news for Apple? Both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are considering an anti-trust suit against Apple over banning non-Apple tools for developing for the iPhone. But if the iPhone is only number 3 in smartphone sales, Apple might argue that the suit should be thrown out because it is not dominant in the market. By losing, Apple may come out a winner.

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