Android tops the smartphone market once again

If you’re a U.S. resident and want to buy a phone today, there’s a one-in-two chance you’ll get a smartphone.

According to a recent report from Nielsen, 54.9 percent of U.S. phone subscribers owned a smartphone as of June 2012. By comparison, in February 2012, smartphone adoption was at 49.7 percent, which can only mean one thing: feature phones are slowly going away and smartphones are here to stay.

The delta in numbers doesn’t mean much, amounting to just 5.2 percent over a four-month period, but this is a very limited time frame. Smartphone adoption was at a mere 28 percent in the U.S. in 2010, and based upon recent numbers, growth is likely to continue in the near term.

It’s hard to argue with the compelling advantages of a smartphone over a feature phone, but advancement in mobile operating systems is actually helping to kill nearly all of the "first generation" smartphone leaders. So as feature phones dwindle, smartphone leaders have undergone a generational shift.

Android is the major player in the smartphone operating system market, with a 51.8 percent share in June. It has also seen a growth in share, from 48 percent during February. During the same period, iOS has seen an increase of 2.3 percent, from 32 percent. The two operating systems have bounced each other in and out of the top slot in Nielsen's ratings for the last year.

Android and iOS are killing RIM and Windows Phone

The rise in market share for Android and iOS comes to the detriment of competing smartphone operating systems, from RIM and Microsoft, which have seen a significant decline over a four month period. Windows Phone 7.5 didn’t help with sales numbers, and the OS continued to shrink. Recent news that WP 7.5 devices will not be able to upgrade to Windows Phone 8 didn't help either.

Interestingly enough, the launch of the Nokia Lumia 900 didn’t benefit Nokia in a significant way, with the Finnish manufacturer only claiming 0.3 percent of smartphone sales, a poor effort considering Apple’s 34 percent and Samsung’s 17 percent. A recent report claims that the Nokia Lumia 900 is doing fairly well on AT&T, supposedly being third in sales, though the Nielsen report doesn’t back up the claim.

Nokia is doing three times better with Symbian (0.9% market adoption) than Windows Mobile, which should be reason enough for concern to both Nokia and Microsoft.

RIM (Blackbery OS) has suffered a 3.9 percent decrease in market share, which is significant enough for the old king of smartphones, considering the current state the company is in. Furthermore, RIM is announcing that their future smartphone crop will be released next year, in 2013, so we can expect a further decrease in market share until the end of 2012. The holiday shopping season is coming in a few months, and the opportunity is already missed according to RIM’s CEO, Thorsten Heins, statement earlier this week.

If RIM doesn’t stand a chance to win back lost market share, Windows Phone 8 does, with an expected release date this fall. The holiday shopping season can do wonders for Microsoft’s OS, which has seen major improvements over its predecessor.

Is resistance futile?

So what is there to learn? The capabilities of iOS and Android place them at the top of the smartphone market and that is not going to change overnight. RIM is already admitting defeat by not being able to deliver new products this year, while Microsoft must struggle through the shopping season to not lose any more territory, and to deliver the best smartphone experience to be able to even compete with the top players.

Microsoft is going to be in the spotlight soon enough and we’ll have to wait and see if their efforts are worthwhile or not.

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