The battle for smartphone market share isn't just a battle for market share. It's a battle of demographics and the opportunity to build a loyal customer base for the future. Android appears to be pulling ahead in this contest in the U.S., while Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) is following closely behind and rivals such as Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), with WebOS, and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), have a decidedly older mix of users.

According to survey results from Nielsen, 14% of all smartphone users between the ages of 18 and 34 are using an Android phone, while this age group posted a 12% share for the iPhone, 11% for BlackBerrys, 3% for Palm OS, and 2% for Windows Mobile. The three leading platforms -- Android, iOS, and BlackBerry -- now claim 37% of the user group that largely defines the trends in the smartphone arena.

Android appears to be growing in this space and seems to have found the key to attract a substantial share in this demographic segment. Compared with iOS, Android has greater market share in younger demographics while falling behind in the age groups above 55. iOS has a similar advantage over BlackBerry devices. HP/WebOS and Windows lack enough market share to be directly comparable, but it appears as if both platforms have an even number of users across all age groups. In a relative comparison, WebOS posted the highest average age.

Android is now also pulling ahead in overall U.S. market share. It is now at 29%, followed by Apple with 27% and BlackBerry with 27%. Windows Mobile/WP7 is at an estimated 10% and WebOS at 4%. Apple and Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) are the dominant device manufacturers, with a share of 27% each. HTC is at 19%, Motorola at 11%, and Samsung at 7%.

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