Android Takes Lead In U.S. Smartphone Market

RIM's BlackBerry OS slipped into second place after more than two years leading the market and Apple's iOS held third place with a slight gain attributed to the iPhone 4 launch.

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Google's Android rode wide carrier distribution in the second quarter to become the leading smartphone operating system in the United States, toppling Research In Motion's BlackBerry OS, a market researcher says.

Android was the operating system on 33% of all smartphones purchased in the quarter, compared to 28% for the BlackBerry OS and 22% for Apple's iOS, NPD Group said Wednesday. While Android is found in handsets from multiple vendors, such as HTC, Motorola and Samsung, RIM's OS is only used in the BlackBerry smartphone and Apple's iOS in the iPhone.

NPD's findings were based on handsets sold to U.S. consumers. Before the latest findings, RIM had led the market for two-and-a-half years.

Android's market gains came at the expense of RIM, as Apple's iOS saw a small gain in the quarter as a result of the iPhone 4 launch, NPD said.

"For the second consecutive quarter, Android handsets have shown strong but slowing sell-through market share gains among U.S. consumers," NPD analyst Ross Rubin said in a statement.

Of the five hottest-selling Android smartphones in the quarter, four were from HTC: the Droid Incredible, EVO 4G, Hero and Droid Eris. The top-selling handset was the Motorola Droid.

RIM is hoping to make a comeback with BlackBerry 6, which made its debut Tuesday in the BlackBerry 9800 Torch. While the OS will help RIM hold on to existing BlackBerry users, an initial review by InformationWeek found the new OS is unlikely to grab share from Android or the iPhone.

NPD also had its doubts.

While the Blackberry 6 supports the kind of touch screens that have been popular in Android handsets, the Torch "lacks the large screen allure that has characterized the best selling Android devices at its price point, including the Droid Incredible and EVO 4G," Rubin said.

In its latest Mobile Phone Track, NPD also took a look at wireless carriers and found that Verizon Wireless maintained its lead for the third consecutive quarter in terms of handset sales. The carrier accounted for 33% of the mobile phones sold in the U.S., followed by AT&T, 25%, Sprint, 12%, and T-Mobile, 11%. Helping Verizon stay on top in the quarter was its buy-one-get-one offer on all smartphones, including RIM and Android models.

NPD also found that while the overall number of mobile phones bought by consumers in the quarter declined year to year, the ongoing popularity of messaging phones and smartphones, which are generally more expensive than standard feature phones, resulted in a slightly higher average price point.

The ASP for all mobile phones reached $90, which is 3% higher than a year ago, NPD said. By comparison, the ASP of smartphones fell 9% to $143.

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