Grab your smelling salts, because this will be a shocker to some of you: American consumers bought more Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android phones than Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhones last quarter.
According to market research firm NPD Research, Androids made up 28% of all smartphone sales to American consumers in the first quarter of 2010, when Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) was busy pushing Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) Droid phones and the Nexus One was but a newborn baby in this market.
Both Apple and Google still lag behind Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) and its BlackBerry platform, though the Android faction seems destined to overtake the BlackBerry addicts in a quarter or two. But keep in mind that these figures don't include corporate sales, where the BlackBerry still reigns supreme.
Perhaps Apple's loyal fans have caught on to the fact that there's an updated iPhone coming this summer, as one has every summer since the first-generation phone was introduced in 2007. That could put some short-term hurt on sales right before that much-anticipated release.
But mostly, the Android software is just now hitting its stride. The Droid was a powerful force in the period that NPD's report covers, but it has since been followed by oodles of new Android releases -- some of which are sell-out stars and look like real contenders to the smartphone throne that Apple likes to claim for itself. And there are many more Androids to come over the summer and well into the holiday shopping season, and ... well, from here on out, really.
Now, the iPhone is still doing very well for itself, with a 21% market share in a weak quarter. iPhone sales will continue to drive the company's profits for years to come. And Google doesn't mind that one bit -- it's not a two-horse race from Big G's perspective, or even a three-horse race. Every smartphone browsing the Web and sending ad clicks to Google is a welcome addition to the team. The brand of the phone, the cellular network, or the software inbetween doesn't really matter.
Given the avalanche of Androids coming down the pipe, versus Apple's stubborn reliance on AT&T (NYSE: T ) as its single carrier of a handful of iPhone models, I don't see the current trends abating anytime soon. So Apple will keep making money, but growing the honey pot slowly. The Androids, at their base royalty-free, will outsell every other platform without sending much money directly to Google -- but hey, more traffic is more traffic.
As a Google investor, I don't really care which smartphone wins, as long as there's more of them every quarter. Apple investors may feel differently on this issue, and they might want to tell Steve Jobs to open up to Verizon.