Google’s mobile operating system Android in January edged out rivals Apple iOS and RIM’s BlackBerry OS to become the top ranked platform in terms of consumer market share, according to Nielsen Wire.
Google-backed (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android just reached 29 percent market share, up two points, compared with Apple and RIM each still holding at 27 percent. But that’s not the whole story: Apple and RIM still remain in the lead in the manufacturing category of the hotly contested smartphone sector.
And, Android pioneer HTC is now the third largest smartphone maker in the U.S., beating out rivals Motorola and Samsung.
Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and RIM (NASDAQ: RIMM) each have 27 percent market share, largely because they own their hardware and platforms, unlike HTC, Motorola and Samsung, hardware vendors that manufacture devices across multiple operating systems.
Among handset vendors who build for other platforms, HTC has managed to rank above competitors with a combined 19 percent of the market — 12 percent on Android and 7 percent on Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile.
Motorola has 11 percent: 10 percent coming from Android and 1 percent from WP7 and Windows Mobile. Samsung has about 7 percent of the U.S. smartphone market with 5 percent of the overall share from Android and 2 percent from Microsoft’s platforms.
Nielsen also reported that Android-powered devices are scoring well with younger consumers. Six percent of its sales are to 18- to 24-year-olds, ahead of iOS and RIM at 4 percent.
The surge in Android’s popularity echoes other reports by research firms in the past six months that have assessed smartphone shipments, while others that evaluate revenue and profit from sales tend to show Apple and RIM in the lead.