Android devices made by several manufacturers were used by 29 percent of the U.S. market in the November through January reporting period. That compares to 27 percent each for both Apple iPhones and BlackBerry devices from Research in Motion, Nielsen reported.
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In Nielsen's most recent report from December, the three top smartphone operating systems were in a statistical dead heat, a Nielsen spokeswoman said Friday.
Microsoft finished fourth at 8 percent, down 1.7 percentage points from the October result, while Palm declined 0.7 percentage points to 3.2 percent, comScore said.
Nielsen relied upon 14,701 postpaid mobile subscriber surveys to reach its recent results. That approach is different from the figures for sales or shipments of smartphones used by Gartner, IDC and other analyst firms.
The Nielsen blog uses guarded wording to describe Android's top position, which has been recorded by some analysts in recent months. Android appears to be pulling ahead of RIM BlackBerry and Apple iOS, Nielsen said.
Still, RIM and Apple came out on top compared with competing device makers, such as HTC and Motorola. That s because RIM is the only maker of its BlackBerry devices and Apple is the only maker of iPhones, while the Android OS is used by several manufacturers. For Android smartphones, HTC had 12 percent, Motorola had 10 percent, Samsung had 5 percent and all others had 2 percent.
In another finding, using the same sample, Nielsen found that Android seems to be attracting more younger consumers. Among smartphone customers ages 18-34, Android was used by 14 percent of customers, while the iPhone was used by 12 percent and the BlackBerry was used by 11 percent.
Customers ages 25-34 years constitute the largest smartphone user group, slightly ahead of the ages 35-44 group. The third-largest smartphone customers group is ages 18-24, according to Nielsen.
Read more about smartphones in Computerworld's Smartphones Topic Center.
Correction: This story as originally posted incorrectly used percentage rather than percentage points in one reference. The article has been amended.