In the smart-phone market, BlackBerrys got squeezed last quarter.
Its maker, Research in Motion Inc., took a double hit: In terms of market share, Google Inc.'s Android operating system overtook that of RIM's, according to new reports on U.S. sales. And Apple Inc.'s iPhone surpassed RIM's corporate stalwart, the BlackBerry Curve 8500, as the nation's bestselling handset.
The Android operating system, which runs on nearly 100 devices, was in 44% of the smart phones sold during the third quarter, according to market research firm NPD Group. Apple's iOS was well behind, at 23%. And RIM's operating system was in 22% of handsets sold, down from 28% the previous quarter.
Android's rise looks especially meteoric compared with the third quarter of last year. Android's operating system was in only 3% of smart phones sold that quarter, while RIM's system grabbed 46% of the market, NPD said.
Meanwhile, Apple took a bite out of BlackBerry: It sold about 14 million iPhones in the quarter ended Sept. 25, compared with the 12 million BlackBerry handsets that RIM shipped in its most recent quarter, which ended Aug. 28.
Of the nation's five bestselling handsets, the iPhone unseated the BlackBerry Curve 8500 as No. 1 during the third quarter, with the LG Cosmos coming in third. Two Android phones, the Motorola Droid X and the HTC Evo 4G, ranked fourth and fifth, NPD said.
Michael Walkley, technology analyst at Canaccord Genuity, a global capital markets research company, said the success of Apple's iOS and Google's Android was due in part to the support iPhones and Android phones have gotten from AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, respectively.
"The two largest carriers have more heavily promoted Apple and Android smart phones than BlackBerry smart phones, resulting in RIM losing smart-phone market share during 2010," Walkley said.
In addition, Android phones and the iPhone 4 have a wider variety of user-friendly applications, making them more attractive than the BlackBerry, he said.
Apple may find it difficult to further expand its U.S. market share because it sells only one type of phone compared with the large collection of offerings that run Android, said Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis for NPD.
"The iPhone has held its own at AT&T, but Apple faces challenges in further expanding its domestic market share while still retaining exclusivity," he said.
But Walkley said that when the iPhone 4 becomes available for Verizon users in the first quarter of 2011, it could dent Android's popularity.
"I think when it becomes more accessible, quite a few consumers will switch to the iPhone and potentially slow down the growth of Android phones," Walkley said.