Has Google’s Inc.’s Android operating system hit an inflexion point?
Data released today by The NPD Group Inc. would indicate that possibility as the research firm reported that the sale of devices powered by the OS outsold Apple Inc.’s iPhone OS during the first quarter of the year putting it right behind Research In Motion Ltd.’s Blackberry OS in total sales.
According to NPD’s research, RIM continued to lead OS sales during the first quarter garnering 36% of the OS market. Android climbed into the No. 2 position at 28%, while Apple’s iPhone OS was No. 3 with 21%. And this despite NPD’s research not including corporate or enterprise sales that have traditionally favored RIM’s OS.
The NPD Group noted that the strong sale of Android-powered smartphones at Verizon Wireless helped propel the nation’s largest carrier to within a whisker of AT&T Mobility’s iPhone-fueled smartphone sales for the quarter. AT&T Mobility continued to lead in market share at 32%, but Verizon Wireless slotted in a close No. 2 at 30%, followed by T-Mobile USA Inc. at 17% and Sprint Nextel Corp. at 15%.
Smartphone sales are becoming increasingly important to carriers as most require customers to sign up for data packages that range up to $30 per month in addition to regular voice and messaging packages.
A brief trip through the carrier Web sites shows a diverse reliance on different OSs depending on carrier.
Verizon Wireless is heaviest with those powered by Microsoft Corp.’s Windows OS counting seven different models including its two new Kin models. Next for the carrier is Blackberry with a half-dozen distinct devices, followed by four Android devices and a pair of Palm Inc.’s devices running its WebOS. In total the carrier has 19 distinct smartphones currently for sale.
For AT&T Mobility, RIM is large and in charge with six distinct models, followed by five running a variation of Windows, two running Nokia Corp.’s Symbian OS and two iPhone models (3G and 3GS). AT&T Mobility also has a single device running Linux in Garmin International Inc.’s Nuvifone and at this point only a single Android model in Motorola Inc.’s Backflip. AT&T Mobility has a total of 17 distinct smartphones for sale.
Sprint Nextel has the smallest number of distinct smartphones for sale with just 10 models. Those include three powered by RIM’s Blackberry OS and three powered by a version of Windows, and a pair each sporting Palm’s WebOS and Android.
T-Mobile USA has 11 distinct smartphones for sale, including five powered by Android, three powered by a Windows variation, a pair of Blackberry models, and a single device each powered by Symbian and the Danger Inc. OS in its Sidekick series, which is actually owned by Microsoft.
Nearly all of the nation’s top operators have a slew of smartphones slated to launch in the coming months with those powered by Android the most numerous.
“As in the past, carrier distribution and promotion have played a crucial role in determining smartphone market share,” said Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis for NPD, and a current contributor to RCR Wireless News’ “Analyst Angle” feature. “In order to compete with the iPhone, Verizon Wireless has expanded its buy-one-get-one offer beyond RIM devices to now include all of their smartphones.”
The NPD Group also noted that continued strong sales of smartphones and messaging devices pushed average selling prices of mobile phones up 5% during the first quarter compared with the same quarter of 2009 to $88, though ASPs for smartphones actually decreased 3% year-over-year to $151.