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Android dominates U.S. smartphone market

Google’s Android operating system dominated the U.S. smartphone market in the third quarter of this year, accounting for 44 per cent of all smartphones purchased during the period. Apple’s iOS, which runs exclusively on the iPhone, was next at 23 per cent, followed by Research in Motion’s OS for the BlackBerry at 22 per cent.

In a report issued today, market research firm NPD Group suggests that much of Android’s gain – about 11 percentage points over its second quarter market share – was at the expense of RIM, not Apple.

“The HTC Evo 4G, Motorola Droid X, and the other new high-end Android devices have been gaining momentum at carriers that traditionally have been strong RIM distributors,” said Ross Rubin, NPD executive director, in a statement. “And the recent introduction of the BlackBerry Torch has done little to stem the tide.”

Despite falling 21 percentage points behind Android, Apple can take some comfort in the fact that the iPhone 4 was the overall best-selling mobile phone. The three months that ended in September was the first full quarter of sales for the iPhone 4 after its introduction on June 24.

Four out of the five top-selling handsets were smartphones, with the iPhone 4 being joined by the BlackBerry Curve 8500, the Droid X, and the Evo 4G. The only non-smartphone handset in the top 5 was LG’s messaging phone, the Cosmos.

Worldwide, more than 20 million Android phones were sold during the third quarter, compared with just 1.4 million in the same period a year ago. Many analysts predict that Android will continue to close the gap with Nokia’s Symbian operating system and maybe even overtake it as worldwide #1 within five years.

The U.S. numbers illustrate the opportunity – and the problems – facing Microsoft, as it tries to reestablish itself as a significant player in the domestic smartphone market. Its existing platform, Windows Mobile OS, had just 3 percent market share. Executives in Redmond, WA will be watching nervously to see if the new Windows Phone 7 operating system can do anything to slow the Android juggernaut.

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