Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system rose to 52 percent of units sold for the second quarter, posting its highest share ever in the United States, according to The NPD Group.
Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS grew to 29 percent in Q2, while Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry OS continued to fall, dropping to 11 percent. Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile, and HP's (NYSE:HPQ) webOS each remained flat at less than 5 percent of the market each.
For the top three vendors, these results mark a bit of a turnaround from NPD's Q2 2010 report. At the time, the researcher said Android had accounted for 33 percent of handsets sold in Q2, with RIM selling 28 percent of the phones and the iPhone following with 22 percent.
One year later and the market dynamic continues to evolve.
Google agreed to acquire key Android OEM Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) for $12.5 billion, while HP revealed that it will stop making smartphones and tablets based on its webOS operating system, whose future remains in question.
NPD Group analyst Ross Rubin said Google's bid for Motorola "shifts the balance of power in the handset-patent conflict between Google and its operating system competitors. Android's momentum has made for a large pie that is attractive to Motorola's Android rivals, even if they must compete with their operating system developer."
Rubin's report assumes Google will not only get Motorola but that Google and top Android OEMs Samsung and HTC will maintain their allegiance to each other.
And why not? After a great debut of the Motorola Droid in late 2009, Motorola's Android sales have been waning. The company failed to get both the Motorola Xoom 4G tablet and Motorola Droid Bionic 4G to market when it promised it would deliver them.
Rubin said Motorola's overall mobile phone market share dipped from 12 percent in Q2 2010 to 9 percent in Q2 2011, while its smartphone market share fell from 15 percent to 12 percent.
Worse still, Motorola's year-over-year unit share of Android OS plummeted from 44 percent in Q2 2010 to 22 percent from the recently closed second quarter. Samsung, LG and HTC are partly to blame for that.
Rubin further argued that closer ties with Android by way of the Google deal, which is expected to close late this year or early 2010, "can help inspire new paths to differentiation." It could also spur the other Android OEMs to flock to Windows Phone 7 for differentiation.
Should Samsung, LG and HTC split their attention between Android and WP7, it will weaken Android, whose plot in the market is tenuous thanks to the overwhelming number of patent infringement lawsuits attacking the platform.
Still, Rubin sees salvation for Motorola in the pre-paid smartphone market. NPD found that one in five new handsets acquired in Q2 was on a prepaid plan.
"Android is also leading the charge in the rapidly growing prepaid smartphone market," Rubin said. "This was once a key segment for Motorola that the company has an opportunity to reclaim as prepaid carriers build their smartphone portfolios."
Motorola may have an opportunity, but what chance does Android stand if its OEMs find their smartphone productions halted by Oracle, Microsoft, Apple and other litigators seeking to stop Android's momentum?