Apple Disputes NPD Smartphone Data on Google Android

Apple questions U.S. smartphone market data showing that the iPhone OS has fallen to third place behind Google Android and RIM BlackBerry on the grounds that the survey's sample size was limited. Numbers from other sources over the past two quarters have shown the iPhone staying ahead of Android. Whatever the case, the iPhone could see renewed momentum in summer 2010 when iPhone OS 4 launches, very possibly along with a next-generation version of the mobile device.

Apple is reacting to new data placing its iPhone third in the U.S. smartphone market, behind Google Android and BlackBerry phones. Previous numbers put the iPhone in second place, contributing to the perception that the iPhone had become the all-conquering Genghis Khan of the smartphone market.

In a research note released May 10, NPD Group said Android had supplanted iPhone as the No. 2 smartphone operating system in the United States. Specifically, analysts' calculations pegged Android at 28 percent of the overall market, followed by iPhone with 21 percent; meanwhile, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion held the top spot with 36 percent.

That data runs somewhat counter to other analyst companies' recent findings. ComScore, for example, found that Android occupied 9 percent of the U.S. smartphone market between December and February, while iPhone held a comfortable lead with 25 percent. IDC said iPhone sales for the first quarter of 2010 totaled 8.8 million units, outpacing the 5-million-combined unit sales of HTC and Motorola, the most prolific Android smartphone manufacturers; however, the mathematical possibility exists that sales from other manufacturers, including Samsung, were enough to push Android past iPhone.

Whatever the accuracy of these companies' final data, the allegation that Android had reduced iPhone to the third-biggest kid on the playground was enough to draw a reaction from Apple. That reaction, understandably, was not very pleased.

"This is a very limited report on 150,000 U.S. consumers responding to an online survey and does not account for the more than 85 million iPhone and iPod Touch customers worldwide," Apple spokesperson Natalie Harrison told Reuters May 11. "We had a record quarter with iPhone sales growing by 131 percent, and with our new iPhone OS 4.0 software coming this summer, we see no signs of the competition catching up any time soon."

Carriers such as Verizon Wireless have been heavily marketing mobile devices running Android, and those promotions have undoubtedly contributed to a rapid uptake of smartphones such as the Motorola Droid and Droid Eris.

"As in the past, carrier distribution and promotion have played a crucial role in determining smartphone market share," said Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis for NPD. "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."

However, Apple could very well regain market momentum by summer, when iPhone OS 4, with new features such as multitasking, will be released. Expectations are high that Apple will also debut a new iPhone device, one that very possibly includes the various hardware features-including a front-facing camera for video conferencing-seen in an Apple smartphone prototype lost in a California bar and dissected in April by tech blog Gizmodo.