OS war has Android on top in U.S. smartphone sales

Plenty of phone models and carriers likely to help Android stay on top for a long time

Android was the top operating system in smartphone sales in the U.S. in the second quarter, with Research In Motion's BlackBerry OS finishing second and Apple's iOS in third, a Gartner analyst said today.

U.S. smartphone sales by OS in 2Q10 (thousands of units)

2Q10 2Q10 2Q09 2Q09
Android 4,960.6 34.10% 380 3.90%
Research In Motion 4,847.6 33.30% 5,113.7 52.5%
Apple iOS 3,227.0 22.20% 2,467.0 25.40%
Microsoft Windows Mobile 662.4 4.60% 945.8 9.70%
Symbian 420.0 2.90% 346.6 3.60%
Other OS 434.0 2.90% 478.3 4.90%
Grand total 14,551.6 100.00% 9,731.4 100.0%
Source: Gartner (August 2010)

While it may be too soon for Google and the Android community to assume that the smartphone OS war is won in the U.S., Android's ascendancy to the top spot for the first time is a "milestone," said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi.

Android slightly edged out the BlackBerry OS in the U.S., with 4.96 million devices sold for the quarter, compared with RIM's 4.84 million. Apple's iOS for the iPhone sold 3.22 million, Gartner said.

Other smartphone operating systems had far fewer sales in the U.S. in the quarter, with Microsoft's Windows at 662,000, Symbian at 420,000 and all others at 434,000, Gartner said.

Nokia has had a challenge selling smartphones and other mobile phones in the U.S., even though its Symbian OS was No. 1 globally, with 25.3 million smartphones sold. The BlackBerry OS finished second globally, with 11.2 million; Android finished third, with 10.6 million; and Apple's iOS was fourth, with 8.7 million.

Android catapulted to first in the U.S. in the second quarter compared with a year earlier, when far fewer Android phones were sold. Only 380,000 Android smartphones were sold in the second quarter of 2009, Gartner said.

More telling is that RIM sold 266,000 fewer smartphones in the U.S. in the second quarter compared to a year earlier. The third-place iOS increased by 760,000 over the same period.

Milanesi said the next big milestone for Android will be to move into second place in the world by the end of 2011, which Gartner has predicted it will do. "Things have moved much faster than anticipated in terms of platform evolution, device rollout and carrier support" for Android, she said.

Android has an advantage over other mobile operating systems, especially iOS, because it runs on dozens of different phones at a wide range of prices and with many carriers, analysts have noted.

Because Apple and even RIM are limited by the number of different models they can produce annually, it is possible that Android will stay on top in the U.S. for some time. When Android reaches second place globally to Nokia, it's likely to remain there for a long time, they added.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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