Apple Takes the Fight to Android

A new survey reveals that Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iOS smartphone operating system is closing in fast on Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) market-dominating Android operating system. Here's what it means for the two companies, and what it means for the market space.

Apple closes the once-yawning gap
The survey was conducted by Nielsen and found that, among Americans over the last three months who bought new smartphones, 44.5% bought an iPhone versus the 46.9% who purchased a handset running Android. RIM (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) , maker of the Blackberry, polled at 4.5% market share. If the Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Windows Phone operating system polled at all, it wasn't mentioned in the results.

This survey stands in stark contrast to an earlier Nielsen survey taken in October. Again polling Americans who bought a new smartphone within the previous three months, this survey found that just 25.1% went with the iPhone while 61.6% went with an Android handset. RIM's Blackberry again came in dead last at 7.7% market share, and Windows Phone apparently didn't rate at all.

Thank you, iPhone 4S
It's obvious that the introduction of the iPhone 4S in October was the reason behind Apple's surge in the ratings.The December survey specifically found, in fact, that a full 57% of new iPhone owners bought the iPhone 4S. Nielsen didn't say how many people surveyed bought the iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4.

Neither survey bodes particularly well for Microsoft's new Windows Phone operating system, but to be fair, the system hasn't had its fair shot in the marketplace yet; the big marketing and manufacturing push is just getting underway, and goes hand-in-glove with the launch of the new range of smartphone handsets from Finnish cellphone giant Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) .

The little Cupertino company that could
The iPhone getting even this close to Android in terms of market share is astounding. Android is the Microsoft Windows of smartphone operating software, i.e., anyone and their mother can pick it up and adapt it to their handsets without much muss or fuss, which can make the end cost to the consumer much more attractive than that of the iPhone. Apple's performance here says a lot for the power of the brand.

But definitely look for Nokia and Microsoft to make some sort of a dent in the next poll. The new Nokia 900 handset, a high-end, 4G phone set to debut on the AT&T network later this year, is getting good reviews. Nokia and Microsoft are placing their biggest bets on this partnership to get them back in the smartphone game; they're determined to make it work, and have the deep pockets to make a serious run at it.

As for RIM and its once-dominant Blackberry, most everyone is waiting for the company's final swoon into either bankruptcy or buyout, whichever comes first.

But if the big brutes of the smartphone industry aren't your cup of technological tea, what about three sleeper stocks perfectly positioned to cash in on the booming smartphone and tablet markets? Read all about them in this Motley Fool special free report, "3 Hidden Winners of the iPhone, iPad, and Android Revolution." Get your copy while it's hot.

Fool contributor John Grgurich thinks Apple should break out the Superman cape after this performance, but he owns no shares of any of the companies mentioned in this column. The Motley Fool, however, owns shares of Apple, Microsoft, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a scintillating disclosure policy.


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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 19, 2012, at 2:22 AM, deasystems wrote:

    "The survey...by Nielsen...found that, among Americans over the last three months who bought new smartphones, 44.5% bought an iPhone versus the 46.9% who purchased a handset running Android....This survey stands in stark contrast to an earlier Nielsen survey taken in October....this survey found that just 25.1% went with the iPhone while 61.6% went with an Android handset."

    What a stunning decline for the Android-based devices! And to think the Android world has widely been considered to be invincible...

    "...anyone and their mother can pick...up [Android] and adapt it to their handsets...which can make the end cost to the consumer much more attractive than that of the iPhone."

    No, not true. iPhones cover the price spectrum from free ($0) on up.

  • Report this Comment On January 19, 2012, at 9:39 AM, XMFGrgurich wrote:

    deasystems, I haven't seen a free iPhone myself yet, but I may have just missed it. I'll keep my eyes open.

    Thanks for everyone's comments. I learned some new things myself. Cheers.

  • Report this Comment On January 19, 2012, at 1:52 PM, lucasmonger wrote:

    @ TMFGrgurich

    http://store.apple.com/us/product/MC555

    Free iPhone 3S thru AT&T (with a 2 year service)

  • Report this Comment On January 19, 2012, at 2:11 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    It wasn't precisely free, but my coworker just got an iPhone 3GS for one dollar with contract renewal. That deal is definitely going around.

    Sad to say I think RIM is doomed. They had a good thing going with their ultra-secure mystique, but enterprise business is moving away from company provided cellphones into a "bring your own" model and Android and iOS are both more consumer oriented than Blackberry. iOS now has a messaging app similar to BBM. And the highly publicized outages that RIM suffered blow major dents in their "secure, reliable business phone" image, which was their biggest asset.

    That's why I suspect bankruptcy will be more likely than a buyout; there just isn't much value prospect in RIM for most buyers, unless they have some crazy patents (which they might).

    RIM's decline is a good opportunity for Windows Phone; it looks like the stars are aligning just right for them in a lot of ways, in fact. I'll be looking for a new phone in a couple of months and Windows Phone is definitely on the table for me.

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