Another poll shows the iPhone losing market share to Android

by Phil Hornshaw

A new poll says that during the last 90 days, as many consumers have decided they want Google’s Android phone as want Apple’s iPhone. And this trend may just be an appetizer.

DailyTech reported that research company ChangeWave conducted a pair of surveys, one in June 2010 and the other last month in September, and compared the results. In the June survey, 50 percent of people who said they were in the market for a smartphone said they preferred an iPhone, with 30 percent opting for Android.

Just three months later – a period which included the June 24 launch of the iPhone 4 – Apple’s serious lead was seriously diminished. The September survey has only 38 percent of consumers looking to iPhone, a substantial 12-percentage-point drop. Meanwhile, Google (GOOG) has surged up seven points and now is nearly tied with the iPhone at 37 percent.

Steve Jobs might want to rethink his “just don’t hold it like that” stance on the iPhone 4 and its faulty antenna.

This is a pretty big deal for both camps. In June, according to the survey, one in every two people buying a smartphone wanted an Apple (AAPL) smartphone. Not Google. Not Microsoft (MSFT). Not Blackberry (RIMM). In effect, Apple owned the smartphone market.

But launch one troubled product and suddenly things are changing. Apple has spent years developing a loyal following, a reputation for quality, and an advertising model that attracts people from a number of angles, including a hip style. Clearly, it’s not enough, because for all the ravenous fan following that Apple receives – and it does have a lot of that – people without a vested interest or a long career of Apple use obviously are looking in other directions.

The consumer still wins

This is all very good news for us, the consumers.

Competition is a great thing and a big blow from Google should have two very immediate, very clear effects. First, it will cause Apple to step up its smartphone game, which will hopefully mean better, more reliable products for us iPhone owners. My old 3G slowly seems to be losing service in a growing portion of my Los Angeles apartment. It would be nice to get a model of phone that actually makes calls.

In order to keep its chunk of the pie or grow it back to what it used to have, Apple should be working hard to develop a new great Google killer. This could mean more functionality in the realm of apps (we’re about to see AirPlay, for example, which will be a game-changer in many ways) to make iPhones work better and do cooler things. Or maybe some of the costs and walls on AT&T’s side could be negotiated down. It’s all speculation, but Apple should be looking for avenues to increase the value of its products to consumers.But Google didn’t just take a shot across Apple’s bow, it sank a direct hit. Even better, it proved that it could do such a thing and in an extremely short amount of time. Expect the company to be looking for Apple’s jugular in terms of the smartphone market.

Just like Apple will be looking to rebuild its image and market share, Google should be continuing to find ways to shake the company up. Expect to see more Droids with a high degree of technical quality to solidify Google’s place as an alternative to a struggling-to-work iPhone. Google will likely be working even harder on the side of customer satisfaction.

And like how the iPhone added Netflix streaming last month, expect more development of apps from Google as well, likely with crossover services like Netflix (there is an Android Netflix apps in the works – it just seems that it’ll take a while). One of the biggest selling points of the iPhone is the size and range of its app market, but if Google can cultivate many higher-quality, higher-visibility apps, it can start to chip away at that Apple foundation as well.

It’s a lot of speculation, I know, but it’s hard not to get excited about the possibilities of an Apple/Google death match, should such an event arise. The great thing about when companies duke it out is that the people who buy from them end up being the real winners.