Google’s Android Bumps iPhone From #2 in U.S.

Reuters:

Smartphones featuring Google’s Android operating system accounted for 28 percent of U.S. smartphone unit sales in the first quarter, according to NPD Group, behind top-ranked Research in Motion Ltd, maker of the Blackberry phone, which had a 36 percent share of the market…. Apple’s iPhone, which is available exclusively on the AT&T wireless network in the United States, dropped to third place as its share of the smartphone operating system market remained flat quarter-over-quarter at 21 percent. Unlike Apple, Google offers its Android software to other phone-makers. In April, Google said a dozen vendors currently offer 34 different devices that feature the Android software.

Peter Kafka wonders, really?

NPD’s numbers look quite different from the most recent numbers from comScore (SCOR), which showed Google with a 10 percent share in February.* Still, NPD is usually considered a reasonably accurate estimator of retail sales, so the report is worth taking seriously. The best argument in support of NPD’s numbers, meanwhile, is that Google’s handset and carrier partners, particularly Verizon Wireless (VZ) and Motorola (MOT), have been pushing their Android phones hard in recent months. [John Gruber agrees; Kevin Kelleher notes Apple would never sell two iPhones for the price of one.] And perhaps potential iPhone buyers are in a wait-and-see mode until June, when Apple is expected to unveil a next-generation handset. But this explanation requires an awful lot of iPhone buyers to be awfully savvy about Apple’s product cycle.

I’m waiting, even with a cracked screen and upgrade eligible AT&T contract. The HTC EVO 4G is tempting — I happen to live in one of the 35 markets with WiMax coverage. But even if I do buy an Android phone, I’ll use it as a hotspot for my iPad.

That’s why the company will make out just fine. Apple has always done well with high-end chic-niche products. Can you name a market leader from them before the iPod? Still, whatever happens with the iPhone, Apple has a good long lead with the number one iPad to cash in on.

RELATED: MG Siegler parses Engadget’s get of details of the Apple/AT&T exclusivity agreement. And Mashable’s Ben Parr wonders, Should Nintendo Make Its Own Phone?

You can find me @jwindish, at my Public Notebook, or email me at joe-AT-joewindish-DOT-com.

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