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Android tops mobile OS market as manufacturers duke it out

by Kristen Nicole

Android’s mobile OS continues to dominate, lording over Apple (AAPL) iOS, RIM, Windows and all the rest. According to the latest Nielsen report on the U.S. smartphone market, Android takes 39 percent of the pie, up three percent from the previous report, which looked at smartphone market share between February and April. Apple takes in 28 percent, up two percent, while RIM’s (RIMM) BlackBerry takes third place with 20 percent market share. That’s a decline of three percentage points for RIM, which is now undergoing staff cuts in an effort to sustain this very distinct shift in industry favor.

It’s the same old story for Android, but Nielsen drills down into some manufacturer statistics that put Apple back on top. It’s the leader in this area, with RIM coming in at second place, though HTC ties at 20 percent. Motorola (MMI) comes in with an 11% share of the market, and Samsung takes up 8 percent. Window’s devices account for only 6 percent of the market, and HP and Nokia lag far behind, at two percent each. It’s because Apple’s iOS is developed for only Apple devices that it’s able to retain such a high percentage of the manufacturer market. Android’s OS, on the other hand, is split amongst HTC, Motorola, Samsung and others. And it’s because these phone makers have been able to dominate the scene that they’ve become targets for Android competitors.

While Oracle is after Android for its use of Java, Apple is after HTC and Samsung for their Android-based smartphone design. Samsung is a special target as it’s growing its market share, especially over the last year. A report from IMS shows that Samsung is making the largest gains of all the manufacturers putting out Android devices, accounting for 13 percent of all handset sales in the first quarter of 2011. That’s a big jump from only 3 percentage of sales this time last year. Apple’s set its legal hounds on Samsung and HTC, taking the manufacturers to court over patent infringement.

But even as Android manufacturers battle Apple in the handset game, they must also battle each other. Maintaining consumer appeal also means ensuring the best of features on every device. Samsung is making a killing in the market, and is unleashing its highly popular Galaxy S II in U.S. stores this week. Sony Ericsson has been focused on specialized Android handsets, with less than 6 percent of the market, updating the Xperia X10 with Gingerbread 2.3 this week as well.