January 4, 2011, 4:57 PM

The iPhone runs past BlackBerry and stays ahead of Android

It’s a two-horse race between iPhone and Android. Who will win?

Lead Photo

The iPhone is the leader in market share among smartphones.

It’s critically important that you pay very close attention to which smartphones are taking the lion’s share of the market. It will dictate your future.

The Nielsen Co. just released smartphone operating system market share data for the month of November, and things are really heating up. 28.6% of smartphones in use by U.S. adults run Apple Inc.’s iPhone operating system, 26.1% use Research in Motion’s BlackBerry operating system and 25.8% run Google Inc.’s Android operating system.

BlackBerry has been dropping like a stone. Unless they very soon create the greatest thing since sliced bread, write them off (sorry, BlackBerry). BlackBerry users are business users, anyway. They don’t do the same things iPhone and Android users do, like have fun—which would include shopping.

So it’s a two-horse race, iPhone versus Android. It’s important to remember that the iPhone is one, singular smartphone. When people say Android, they are referring to numerous phones from different manufacturers that employ Google Inc.’s Android operating system. So this is a battle of one versus many, and the one continues to win. Also remember that an iPhone has all the functionality of the most advanced iPod, so an iPhone is also an iPod, an absolutely ubiquitous digital music device that’s a must-have for countless consumers.

The iPhone has been trending up, but only a bit. Android, on the other hand, has been growing significantly, and it’s now within 2.8 percentage points of tying the Apple device. Here’s how I see things going in 2011. The Android, based on its stupendous growth curve, overtakes the iPhone. But at some point this year, Apple’s exclusive deal with AT&T ends and it begins offering the iPhone through Verizon. At that point, a massive number of consumers who hate AT&T but have drooled over the iPhone for years move to the iconic Apple device. And by the beginning of 2012 the iPhone takes the lead back from Android.

Why is this important to you? Every retailer, consumer brand manufacturer, travel company and ticket seller must know which are the dominant smartphones because those devices will be responsible for a tremendous amount of web traffic. A year and a half ago I was hearing from many retailers that 2-5% of traffic was coming from mobile devices. Today I’m starting to hear 10-12%. By the end of this year, when, according to Nielsen, half of all mobile phones in use will be smartphones, watch out.

Knowing that the iPhone and Android operating systems are the ones to beat is key to success with a mobile commerce endeavor. You want to be optimizing with these devices in mind. You certainly don’t want to be wasting your time with a Palm app (sorry, Palm). Nor do you want to be worrying about the nuances of Windows Phone 7 (sorry, Microsoft). Unless, that is, you’re keeping a sharp eye on smartphone market share and you see Palm or Windows rise from the ashes (not going to happen).

For the foreseeable future it’s all about the iPhone and Android. And what a prizefight this is going to be. When Verizon gets in the iPhone’s corner, I’ll stake my money on the iPhone.

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