The number of Apple iPhone OS users surpassed Microsoft Windows Mobile users for the first time in October, according to data from comScore.
ComScore surveys U.S. mobile subscribers over the age of 13 and averages together data from three months' worth of polling. Over the span of 2009, the digital number cruncher found that Microsoft smartphone OS users climbed from an average of 6.81 million in February to 7.04 million in May and 6.66 million in July. Simultaneously, Apple OS users grew from February's average of 5.26 million users to 5.75 million in May and 6.63 million in July.
October's average, however, found the number of Microsoft OS users at 7.13 million, while iPhone OS users jumped to 8.97 million.
In June, Apple introduced the iPhone 3GS, which may partly explain the leap. Microsoft didn't roll out its OS update, Windows Mobile 6.5 - called a bit of a goof-up, by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer - until Oct. 6, and its effects aren't represented in the data.
"It's not surprising," Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies, told eWEEK, though he pointed out that the ways comScore collects its data may affect the outcome of its polling, with a bias toward data-using devices.
"It's probably true, in absolute numbers, that there are more iPhone users out there," said Kay. "But some Microsoft smartphone users may find [using their devices] a little more cumbersome and so they don't consume data the way iPhone users do."
Given that, comScore additionally reported that use of Google's Android mobile operating system - which currently holds the most modest percentage of smartphone OS market share - more than doubled over the span of the year. While comScore's February average put Android users at 427,000, by October they rose to 1.02 million.
This put Android in close proximity to Nokia's struggling, but soon to be redesigned, Symbian OS, which grew from 888,000 U.S. users in February to 1.3 million in October.
Over the course of 2009, Google updated Android several times. Consequently, on Dec. 17, Google's Android developer group released a device dashboard to help developers decide what iteration of the fragmenting OS to design for. While during the first half of the year T-Mobile offered the only two available Android devices, the G1 and the myTouch, Verizon and Sprint both debuted Android-running devices in time for the holiday shopping season.
Research In Motion tops the OS smartphone charts, however, with even its February average of 9.67 million users beating Apple's October Microsoft-passing 8.97 million. RIM's smartphone user numbers climbed to 12.2 million in May, according to comScore, then 13.08 million in July, before reaching 14.96 million in October.
Palm OS user numbers chugged along from 2.4 million in February to 2.41 million in May, 2.63 million in July and 2.84 million in October.
In September, Palm announced that it would stop releasing devices running the Microsoft Mobile OS, in favor of focusing on its own WebOS, which both the Palm Pre and Pixi run, and which has been generally well received by critics.