Android Surges Into Second Place

The open source Android smartphone market just hit a milestone of sorts: it surpassed the iPhone in popularity, moving into the second overall spot behind industry leader RIM OS (BlackBerry).

That's according to anaylst firm NPD, which tracks smartphone usage. Its Q1 2010 figures show RIM with 36 percent of the market, Android at 28 percent, and iPhone in third at 21 percent.

Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis for NPD, said in a press release that marketing has been crucial in Android's rise. "As in the past, carrier distribution and promotion have played a crucial role in determining smartphone market share. 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."

Android is also available in far more phones and on more carriers than the single-phone, single-carrier iPhone. Verizon, for instance, lists three Android-based phones for sale on its Web site, with two more models -- the HTC Droid Incredible and LG Ally -- coming soon (the Incredible is scheduled to go on sale June 1).

Not everyone is bowled over by the sales figures. Analyst Michael Gartenberg of Altimeter Group blogged about the danger of reading too much into the numbers. He wrote:

"This is a fast moving market and what we're seeing is a snapshot in time that's not likely relevant long term. Microsoft is introducing Windows Phone 7 later this year, Palm is now a part of HP. Google, Apple and RIM are all working on OS and platform refreshes so for the moment, there are a lot of players here who will shuffle for position over time."

Still, it has to be encouraging news for Google, which developed Android. Even though RIM still has the lion's share of the market, it has been around much longer than Android. Android also has a big head start, market-share-wise, over Windows Phone 7, expected to debut later this year.

As for Apple, Gartenberg sees the glass half full rather than half empty. "What I do see interesting is how well Apple has done with a single device (for the most part) on a single carrier in the US," he wrote. "That's an interesting lesson that should not be missed by the competition."

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.