A report released this week by the NPD group revealed that Google’s Android operating system (OS) has surpassed Apple's iPhone OS in unit sales in the first quarter of 2010.
The report shows that based on unit sales to consumers, Android now sits at second place with 28 percent, coming in behind Research In Motion’s (RIM) OS, used by BlackBerry smart phones, at 36 percent. Apple now comes in third with 21 percent.
According to NPD, Google’s ability to surpass iPhone is partly due to the widespread availability of Android OS on various wireless service providers and devices. While iPhone is available only through AT&T Wireless in the United States, smart phones operating on Android can be bought through Verizon Wireless, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile. According to Ross Rubin, executive director of NPD industry analysis, “As in the past, carrier distribution and promotion have played a crucial role in determining smart phone market share.”
Wireless sales representative Ryan Stephens also expressed his opinion on the topic, saying, “I think its inevitable that Android will surpass iPhone simply because its not proprietary and many, many manufactures will use this platform to create desirable products and try to stay afloat; Motorola being a good example. They were in hot water and relied on Android to basically bail them out and get them a desirable product, whereas iPhone is Apple only, and in the U.S., AT&T only.”
Android sales have also been boosted by the accompanying deals offered by the numerous carriers operating on Android OS. For example, Rubin says, “Verizon Wireless has expanded its buy-one-get-one offer beyond RIM devices to now include all of their smart phones,” contributing to the increase in Android sales.
Verizon Wireless has been keeping up with AT&T with a high number of Droid, Droid Eris, and Blackberry Curve sales in the first quarter of 2010. Smartphone sales at AT&T comprised 32 percent of the smartphone market, Verizon Wireless comprised 30 percent, T-Mobile comprised 17 percent, and Sprint comprised 15 percent.
The lower prices of the Android phones don’t hurt matters either. With higher prices and less availability, it is not difficult to imagine how Apple may be struggling to stack up against Android, which is supported by a number of manufacturers including HTC, Samsung, Motorola, and Sony Ericsson.
But NPD’s findings don’t necessarily mean that Apple’s iPhone is going to be blown out of the water. With Apple’s ingenious marketing plus the expected release of an updated iPhone in the summer, Apple fans are sure to be a difficult crowd to win over.