Analyst Android phones outsold the iPhone in U.S. last quarter

Here’s a head-turner for you: The wireless analysts at NPD Group are claiming that in the first three months of 2010, Google’s Android OS managed to squeak past the iPhone in total number of smartphones sold, marking what NPD calls a shift in the market.

According to figures that NPD released Monday, handhelds running on the BlackBerry OS still rule the roost, accounting for 38 percent of the U.S. smartphone market. In second place with a bullet: Android, which snagged 28 percent of the national smartphone market last quarter, leapfrogging the iPhone and its 21 percent share.

Come again?

NPD’s numbers are estimates based on customer surveys — so yes, if you wanted to question the figures, there’s certainly room to do so.

Another important point: Even assuming Android handsets did manage to outsell the iPhone last quarter, Android still has a way to go before it can overtake the iPhone in terms of overall users. A recent ComScore survey found that as of February, the Phone had 25.4 percent of the U.S. smartphone market, versus 3.8 percent for Android. (RIM is way ahead of everyone else — at 40.8 percent, according to ComScore.)

Still, NPD’s first-quarter numbers are eye-openers. Analyst Ross Rubin says “carrier distribution and promotion have played a crucial role” in market share. And indeed, while the iPhone continues to be a hit for AT&T, you can now buy several different Android handsets from any of the big U.S. carriers, while Verizon Wireless has been giving Android phones like the Motorola Droid and the HTC Droid Eris the full-court press.

The news bolsters the feeling that Google’s Android OS is on a roll right now, although I’m curious to see whether other wireless analysts fall in line with the NPD’s conclusions — as well as whether Android keeps its head of steam through the second quarter and beyond.

Yahoo News

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