Nielsen: Android Most Popular Smartphone in U.S.

Google’s Android platform is the most popular choice for smartphone buyers in the U.S., according to new data from survey giant Nielsen. The firm’s data shows that the smartphone market in the U.S. has become a three way horse race, with Android in the top slot, and Apple’s iPhone and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry in a “statistical dead heat” for second place.

In a blog post, the company said that in August of 2010 32% of smartphones sold were running some form of Android OS, while Apple and RIM were tied with approximately 25% market share each. The chart below also shows that Apple passed RIM for the first time in July, the first full month of availability for the iPhone 4.

Nielsen Chart

The above chart shows new purchases from January of 2010 through August. Those numbers show the brisk rates of market share increase for Android and RIM’s rather precipitous decline. The chart below reflects the total installed user base for all three platforms, which includes devices sold before January of this year.

That chart shows that Android still has a long way to go to take over either company when it comes to total devices in use. Both RIM and Apple had a significant head start on Google’s Android platform, with RIM’s head start extending several years beyond Apple’s own multiyear head start over Android.

Nielsen Chart

Which is why we see that RIM is still top dog in terms of the installed user base with 31% of the market. Apple has held fairly steady throughout 2010, owning 28% of the total market in August. Android trails a distant third, but the platform’s rate of increase is clearly steep, and Google is coming on strong.

With the largest chunk of new device sales in the U.S., it won’t be long before Android passes both Apple and RIM for installed user base. iSuppli, for instance, has forecast that this will occur in 2012.

Even then, however, it will be Apple making the majority of profits in the smartphone market, however, at least if past performance is any indication, and it’s likely that the iOS app market will remain the largest and most lucrative for developers.

We should also emphasize that Nielsen’s numbers are for the U.S. only. In the global market, Nokia is still the number one smartphone vendor, even though the firm is a bit player in the U.S. smartphone market.