U.S. Smartphone Sales Explode – Android Maintains Lead Despite iPhone Growth

Android maintains its overall lead in the U.S. market while the iPhone gains ground

Smartphones are close to becoming the primary type of mobile phones sold in the U.S. for the first time. Market research giant Neilsen’s latest analysis of the mobile industry shows that about half of all mobile phone owners in the country now own a smartphone – up significantly from this time last year.

In addition to smartphones gaining major traction, the company also released its data on the makeup of the U.S. smartphone market that shows gains by Apple’s iPhone and significant losses for RIM’s BlackBerry. Android, however, still manages to hold the biggest share of the market overall.

The overall smartphone market grew to 49.7% of the entire mobile phone business, with a matching decline in basic handsets and feature phones. That number of smartphone users is up from 36% of the market around this same time last year. Neilsen notes that two thirds of phone purchases in the last three months were smartphones.

Smartphones now account for half of all mobile phones in the U.S.

The breakdown in overall smartphone marketshare puts Android in the lead with 48% of the market followed by Apple’s iPhone at 32.1% and RIM’s BlackBerry with 11.6%.

When looking at new smartphone purchases, however, Apple has made some strong gains since the release of the iPhone 4S last fall. Users purchasing a smartphone during the first quarter of 2012 showed that 48% chose Android handsets while 43% chose iPhones. Users buying RIM’s BlackBerry devices dwindled to just 5% – illustrating a clear shift away from the once dominant platform.

It’s worth noting that while Android sales beat iPhone sales overall, those sales represent a crowded selection of devices from a range of manufacturers. In comparison, Apple’s sales represent only three models (the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, and iPhone 3GS) all made by the same company. That gives Apple a lead over any individual Android manufacturer as well as placing it as a close second to Android as a platform.

With RIM’s significant decline in sales and with other platforms like Windows Mobile remaining below the BlackBerry both in overall market penetration and in recent sales, it seems clear that it’s a two horse race for the market dominance between Android phones and the iPhone.