Smartphone use grew 21 percent from December 2009 through February 2010, with some 45.4 million people using handsets with full HTML Web browsers in the United States, according to new statistics from comScore.
Google's Android operating system was the chief beneficiary of this growth spurt, rising to 9 percent market share from 3.8 percent from September 2009 through November 2009. That 5.2 percentage point gain was spurred by Verizon Wireless' successful November launch of the Motorola Droid.
Android's growth was great, but the platform still stands a distant fourth in the smartphone market. Research In Motion is the dominant leader, with 42 percent of the market, followed by Apple's iPhone at 25.4 percent and Microsoft Windows Mobile, which garnered 15 percent share.
Microsoft lost 4 percent OS market share from December 2009 through February 2010, which could point to where Google's 5.2 percent share gain came from. Palm also lost share, dipping from 7.2 percent share to 5.4 percent share over the same period.
ComScore also tracked content consumption on mobile phones and found that 18 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers used social networking Websites such as Facebook and Twitter from December 2009 through February 2010, up from 15.1 percent in the three-month period through November 2009.
Some 29.4 percent of subscribers used a Web browser, up 2.4 percent from 27 percent over the same period a year ago. The increased Web browser and social networking use proves that Web content consumption is seeing solid growth, no doubt a sign of the improved Internet experience of today's handsets, particularly smartphones.
Text messaging to other phones, use of downloaded apps, gaming and music on mobile phones all saw growth from U.S. mobile subscribers over the time frame comScore tracked.
Meanwhile, Nielsen posted its own smartphone study April 5, noting that 21 percent of American wireless subscribers are using a smartphone as of the fourth quarter 2009, compared with 19 percent in the third quarter 2009 and 14 percent at the end of 2008.
"We are just at the beginning of a new wireless era where smartphones will become the standard device consumers will use to connect to friends, the Internet and the world at large," wrote Nielsen analyst Roger Entner.
The analyst added that the share of smartphones as a proportion of overall device sales has increased to 29 percent for phone purchasers in the last six months, with 45 percent of respondents to a Nielsen survey claiming that their next device will be a smartphone.
"If we combine these intentional data points with falling prices and increasing capabilities of these devices along with an explosion of applications for devices, we are seeing the beginning of a groundswell," Entner said. "This increase will be so rapid that by the end of 2011 Nielsen expects more smartphones in the U.S. market than feature phones."