Android overtakes iPhone sales in the US, is the tide turning?

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Google's Android platform recently achieved a milestone with new data released by the NPD Group showing that sales of Android handsets overtook iPhone sales in the US during the last quarter, promoting the operating system to the number two position behind RIM's Blackberry OS. The breakdown based on Q1 2010 unit sales puts Blackberry at 36%, Android at 28%, the iPhone at 21%, and other platforms occupying the remaining 15%.

Although significant, this isn't entirely surprising. Because although the iPhone has and continues to be a major success, it is still only a two-model family available through a sole carrier, AT&T. Android and Blackberry, on the other hand, are featured in a wide range of handsets with varying prices and from a larger selection of carriers, resulting in inevitably higher sales.

With Android and iPhone OS being direct rivals, and the former finally overtaking the latter, the questions that now come to mind are: Is the tide turning? How will Apple/Google react? And what will happen next?

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With the almost certain launch of the iPhone 4G/HD accompanied by iPhone OS 4 later this year, Apple have some strong cards to play in the coming months that are sure to boost their market share. But regardless of how impressive the new handset is, the fact that it will probably only be available from AT&T is likely to limit potential sales to an extent, as a single carrier can't compete with the broader market coverage of multiple carriers. Rumors have persisted that Apple may soon bring the iPhone to other carriers such as Verizon, but there still isn't any confirmation, with some information sourced by Engadget stating that the iPhone will remain exclusive to AT&T until 2012.

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The other issue is that the iPhone range is currently set at two base models, the 3G and 3GS, covering the mid and high-end markets. Android handsets cover a broader market spectrum with a larger variety of low, mid, and high-end devices for consumers to choose from.

It's uncertain how the introduction of the iPhone 4G/HD will affect the iPhone range, but my guess is that Apple will probably phase out the original 3G. Will the company surprise us all by introducing a cheaper variation of the iPhone 4G/HD and bringing it to more carriers?

I am also fascinated to see how Palm OS will fare following HP's acquisition of Palm, not to mention the launch of Windows Phone 7 and Symbian^3 later this year.

[The NPD Group via Android and Me]
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Jeremy To

Jeremy is a former editor at Pocketables.

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