August 4, 2010, 4:26 PM

A tale of BlackBerrys, iPhones and Androids

These three mobile operating systems are key, new Nielsen and Digby research shows.

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When it comes to smartphones, the BlackBerry remains king, though its user base skews towards business users and it’s not known for touchscreen devices. The iPhone is No. 2, though still the No. 1 priority among most retail app developers, and has attracted users most likely to shop online, according to recent studies. And the Android is the up-and-comer, gaining market share at a rapid clip.

New research from The Nielsen Co. supports those standings. The research finds of the number of smartphones in use by operating system, BlackBerry’s share dropped to 35% in Q2 2010 from 37% in Q2 2009. The iPhone’s jumped to 28% from 21%, and Android’s soared to 13% from 2%. Windows Mobile hit the skids, dropping to 15% from 27%. Palm nearly falls off the map, decreasing to 3% from 8%. Other operating systems bring up the rear.

In data provided to Internet Retailer today, mobile commerce technology provider Digby reaches the same conclusion when it comes to the three most important smartphone operating systems. A current snapshot of traffic to all of the m-commerce sites and apps powered by Digby shows that 38% comes from iPhones, 29% from the iPod Touch (which uses the same operating system as the iPhone), 13% from BlackBerrys, 12% from Android devices and 8% from others.

“Android is growing rapidly, but the data shows the importance of having an iPhone/iPod Touch, BlackBerry and Android app, as they are the main three while all others are rapidly falling off,” says Dan Lowden, vice president of marketing at Digby. “This is why many of our retail partners are doing mobile web sites and all three apps.”

M-commerce experts strongly agree that the rise of the smartphone largely drives the growth in m-commerce. Smartphone users are much more likely to access the mobile web than conventional mobile phone users and have expectations that web sites will be optimized for viewing on their devices.

Those users also are downloading mobile apps by the billions, moving mobile to an app-centric experience, the reason why pioneering retailers in m-commerce are building apps at an increasingly rapid pace.

Of all U.S. mobile phone users in Q2 2010, 25% were using smartphones. That’s up from 16% only a year earlier, the new Nielsen research finds. The research giant expects smartphones to hit 50% of all phones in use by the end of next year.

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