Google's Android operating system now leads the U.S. smartphone market with a 39 percent share, followed by Apple's iOS (28 percent), and Research In Motion's BlackBerry OS (20 percent), according to Nielsen. However, for device makers, the firm's latest survey data from June clearly demonstrates that Apple remains the premier U.S. smartphone vendor.
HTC was second behind Apple with a 14 percent share, with handsets using Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system accounting for six percent. Android-based devices from Motorola ranked third with an 11 percent market share.
Android devices from Samsung Electronics accounted for eight percent of the U.S. market, with Samsung's Windows Mobile handsets used by two percent, according to Nielsen. However, Samsung appears to be on track to challenge Apple for the top slot on a global basis, according to Strategy Analytics.
"We are currently modeling Samsung to ship 18 million to 21 million smartphones globally in the second quarter of 2011," said Strategy Analytics Director Neil Mawston. "This compares with 16.7 million for Nokia and 20.3 million for Apple. The smartphone race has become a close three-way battle between Apple, Samsung and Nokia."
Emerging Market Growth
In Nielsen's May survey, 38 percent of U.S. mobile consumers said they owned smartphones. Moreover, 55 percent of the respondents who had purchased a new handset in the prior three months bought a smartphone -- up from 34 percent in the year-earlier period.
Still, Western Europe continues to lead other regional markets in smartphone penetration, which stands at more than 40 percent. On the other hand, Asia-Pacific is where smartphone makers have the biggest growth opportunities. While fewer than 20 percent of mobile users currently have smartphones in Asia-Pacific, Nielsen reported that nearly half the region's consumers intend to buy a smartphone in 2011.
Apple told investors last week that it had added 42 new wireless carriers and 15 new countries for the iPhone during the second quarter. However, the real sequential improvement was demand in emerging markets within Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific -- especially China.
"These are markets that Apple historically has not been as strong and we're really beginning to see the fruits of our labor in these markets," Apple COO Timothy Cook told financial analysts on a conference call.
Apple continues to experience very strong year-over-year iPhone sales growth in all of its operating segments, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said. "iPhone sales momentum in the Asia-Pacific region was particularly robust with sales almost quadrupling year over year."
Nokia's Smartphone Slide
During the second quarter, Nokia's smartphone shipments declined 34 percent year over year to 16.7 million units, which demonstrates just how quickly things can go wrong when a company doesn't understand the trends ahead of competitors or is too slow to react, noted IDC Research Manager Francisco Jeronimo.
"This can even get worse over the next quarters as Apple is rumored to launch a cheaper iPhone in September," Jeronimo said. "Nokia will continue losing market share until the new [Windows Phone 7] platform from Microsoft is fully deployed."
With Microsoft's Mango upgrade for Phone 7 now in the hands of smartphone manufacturers, Nokia will be able to launch its first Windows phones well in advance of this year's holiday shopping season.
"The key differentiator is the visual appeal of the platform," Hilwa said. "One of my favorite features is the application-updateable hubs that greet you at the home screen."