Google’s Android OS surpassed Apple in US smartphone market share during the first quarter of 2010. According to the NPD Group, Google now enjoys 28 percent of the smartphone market, earning the company the second-place spot behind Research in Motion (36 percent) and pushing Apple to third place (21 percent).
NPD credits Android’s success to strong carrier promotions, such as Verizon’s buy-one-get-one-free offer on RIM and Android OS devices. Still, the only company to offer Apple’s iPhone (AT&T) remained on top of the smartphone market with 32 percent share. Verizon was close behind with 30 percent, while T-Mobile and Sprint both ended the quarter hovering near the 15 percent mark.
It's possible that Apple will retake second place with the release of the next-generation iPhone this summer, but in the long run, Apple may always trail in terms of market share. Under Steve Jobs, Apple has not been willing to license its OS out to third parties, and that's the exact strategy that Google has used with Android to vault it to the top spot. On top of that, Apple currently limits the iPhone to one carrier while Android devices are carried by several different providers. Both of these elements help Google push a high volume of devices. Even when Apple finally moves to a multiple carrier model, Android will continue to be available on a wide variety of phones at a wide variety of price points, while iPhone OS will only be on a select number.
The day is coming when all mobile phones will be “smart," and the majority of them will be running something besides the iPhone OS. Historically, being number one hasn't been a high priority for Apple (until the success of the iPod, Apple seldom enjoyed that position). The world of high margin, niche products is where Apple likes to live, and the fact that Apple is currently number three probably doesn’t bother Jobs all that much.
Source: ars technica