iOS Still Ahead of Android, but for How Long?

According to a report from Nielsen, iOS is still the top smartphone operating system in the U.S., but the growth shown by competing operating system Android will likely make 2011 a pivotal year, as the country should soon have more Android-powered phones than iPhones. For instance, in the month of November 2010, 4 out of 10 smartphones sold in the U.S. featured Google’s operating system, while 3 out of 10 were iPhones. As a result, Android’s share of the market is getting extremely close to iOS’s, as about 26 percent of smartphones are now powered by Android, while a little over 28 percent are powered by iOS.

Android / BlackBerry / iOS respective market shares (note that Nielsen’s numbers do not take into account devices such as the iPod touch or the iPad, also powered by iOS)

However, these numbers fail to take into account factors such as usage, and type of customer, as while Android is quickly gaining market share, it appears that the overall market it caters to is slightly different than the market targeted by the iPhone. A report from Net Applications shows that despite Android’s popularity, when compared to iPhone users, Android users do not seem to use the operating system’s main features nearly as much – for example, the iOS platform actually gained the most overall usage share in December 2010.

Smartphones usage: iOS vs. Android

Truth is, the definition of what is considered a smartphone varies from one camp to the other. For Google, virtually every Android-powered handset qualifies as a smartphone, and that includes cheaper devices used mostly for voice and text-messaging. On the Apple side of the equation, the Cupertino-based company only offers a single smartphone. Just to keep the comparison as fair as possible, we used Net Applications’s engine to compare the overall web usage between all Android-powered devices, and the iPhone alone. The results are actually striking, as the combined Android web usage market share is still less than half of what the website shows for the iPhone.

Smartphones usage: iPhone (alone) vs. Android (all flavors)

In short, Android is undoubtedly becoming the most popular mobile operating system in the U.S., however, a large portion of users who recently bought an Android-powered device likely picked it because of unrelated factors such as price, and not for the more advanced features offered by the device’s operating system, such as web browsing, and the ability to run apps.