Google Android has supplanted Apple iPhone as the No. 2 smartphone operating system in the United States, according to fresh data released by the NPD Group May 10.
The market researcher analyzed unit sales to consumers in the first quarter and found that Android logged 28 percent share of the market, besting the 21 percent tallied by the iPhone and second behind Research In Motion, which grabbed 36 percent. AllThingsDigital has posted NPD's line graph here.
The data is something of a surprise when one considers the latest data from researchers such as comScore and IDC. ComScore found that Android garnered 9 percent share from December through February, while the iPhone locked up 25 percent share for that period.
IDC said that Apple's iPhone sold 8.8 million smartphones for Q1 and that HTC and Motorola, two prominent Android smartphone makers, combined to ship about 5 million phones for the quarter. HTC's sales were led by the Android-based Hero, Droid Eris and myTouch 3G. Motorola unit sales soared from the Droid, Cliq and Backflip, all Android devices.
But Samsung and others also make Android devices, and there are more than 30 Android phones on the market.
By sheer volume, it is quite possible Android beat out the iPhone for the quarter, particularly with Verizon Wireless heavily marketing the Droid, Droid Eris and new HTC Incredible, both based on the most current Android 2.1 software.
Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis for NPD, affirmed that strong sales of the Droid, Droid Eris and BlackBerry Curve helped keep Verizon's smartphone sales on par with sole iPhone provider AT&T in the first quarter.
Smartphone sales at AT&T garnered 32 percent of the smartphone market, followed by Verizon Wireless at 30 percent, T-Mobile at 17 percent and Sprint at 15 percent.
"As in the past, carrier distribution and promotion have played a crucial role in determining smartphone market share," said Rubin. "In order to compete with the iPhone, Verizon Wireless has expanded its buy-one-get-one offer beyond RIM devices to now include all of their smartphones."
Two things could help iPhone regain the No. 2 OS spot from Android. First, Apple is launching its iPhone 4.0 in June, adding multitasking and folders to build on the iPhone 3GS experience.
Second, Apple has yet to launch the iPhone on Verizon's leading wireless network. Tapping into just a portion of the 90 million-plus subscriber base on Verizon would enable the iPhone to gain traction on Verizon's popular Droid lineup and give Android a good dusting overall.