Android leads smartphone market but not the overall mobile race

Apple and Android are jockeying for first place in mobile, but Microsoft and RIM are struggling, no matter how you slice it

In a mere three months, Google Android shot from second to first place among smartphone platforms, with subscriber market share jumping from 26 percent in November 2010 to 33 percent in February. RIM managed to cling to second place with a 28.9 percent market share, despite a 4.6 percent drop in subscription share, while Apple iOS languished in third place at 25 percent, seeing a 0.2 percent bump.

Does that mean Google is the pony to bet on in the ongoing mobile race? Don't double-down yet.

The snapshot provided by comScore MobiLens confirms that Android is enjoying growth. It confirms that RIM and Microsoft (which dropped 1.3 percent to a market share of 7.7 percent) are reeling. It reminds us that there's a mobile platform called Palm, used by 2.8 percent of smartphone subscribers. However, the data doesn't show how close the mobile race likely is between Google and Apple.

For starters, it doesn't factor in non-smartphone devices, such as feature phones or more important, tablets -- yes, those game-changing systems that have thrown the computing world for something of a loop. Should they be lumped into the mobile device category or the mobile computing category? The iPad proved integral in pushing Apple to the top slot as the No. 1 mobile computing vendor last quarter, according to research company DisplaySearch.

One useful source of data provides an arguably broader picture of the mobile-platform landscape is StatCounter, which tracks Web page views by platforms, browsers, and devices (among other things). Granted, page views don't translate directly to subscribers or device sales, but subscriptions and devices sales aren't the only marks of a winning mobile platform either. Content providers and application developers are keen on finding out which platform is most commonly used to access the Internet, because those page views translate into dollars.

According to StatCounter, 21.94 percent of page views via mobile OSes were performed on iOS devices in November 2010; the figure increased to 24.38 percent in March. Meanwhile, Android represented 11.6 percent of page views via mobile usage in November and jumped to 15.8 percent in March.

Symbian OS, meanwhile, remained the top mobile platform for viewing the Web in November through March, though its share decreased from 31.93 percent to 30.61 percent. BlackBerry's share dwindled from 19.25 percent to 14.1 percent.

This mobile race is far from over, especially for Apple and Google. And if you want to lay down cash as to who the winner will be -- or even who it is today -- bet with care: There are plenty of factors to consider.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.