Android's explosive growth showed no sign of slowing in the third quarter, as the Google platform grabbed 44% share of the U.S. smartphone market, according to market research firm NPD Group. That's a gain of 11 percentage points from the prior quarter and well ahead of Apple, which edged ahead of BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion into the No. 2 slot.
Apple's iOS was fairly steady during the quarter, picking up a percentage point to hit 23%, while the RIM OS fell to 22% from 28%. "Much of Android's quarterly share growth came at the expense of RIM, rather than Apple," said Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis for NPD, in a statement. Compared to the year-earlier quarter, RIM's share has fallen by 53%, while's Apple's has dropped 21%.
In a separate report released today, U.K.-based research firm Canalys similarly found Android claimed a 44% share of the U.S. market, shipping 9.1 million phones in the quarter compared to 5.5 million for Apple (26%) and 5.1 million for RIM (24%). Microsoft had just a 3% share.
The new sets of numbers is only the latest unwelcome news for RIM. Last week, IDC reported Apple had passed the Waterloo, Ontario-based company to become the fourth biggest mobile phone manufacturer worldwide, with a 4.1% share.
One bright spot for RIM is in emerging markets. Despite its issue with the Indian government over the monitoring of BlackBerry email and text messages, RIM continues to expand in India and holds an 18% share in the country. It's also the top smartphone vendor in Latin America, with a 40% share, according to Canalys.
When it comes to individual handsets, the iPhone is still king, ranking as the top-selling phone during the quarter, followed by the BlackBerry Curve 8500 series, LG Cosmos, Motorola Droid X and HTC Evo 4G. Apple said it sold 14 million iPhones in the third quarter, driven by the June release of the iPhone 4. Notably, four of the top five selling handsets in the third quarter were smartphones, highlighting the growing mainstream appeal of high-end devices.
The expected release of the Verizon iPhone early next year should help solidify the leading position of the Apple device and could help it gain back some share from Android. Apple's exclusive deal with AT&T to date limited its distribution to a single carrier in the U.S. "The iPhone has held its own at AT&T, but Apple faces challenges in further expanding its domestic market share, while still retaining exclusivity," said Rubin.