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AC Nielsen: iPhone leads smartphone race, but Android making headway

by Howard Wolinsky

Image from nielson.comThe horserace for domination of the smartphone market is tighter than ever, with Apple’s (AAPL) iOS leading the way and Google’s (GOOG) Android attracting the newest customers, the Nielsen Co. reports in Nielsen Wire.

From June through November, Android represented 40.8 percent of smartphone acquirers compared with 26.9 percent for Apple iOS and 19.2 percent for Research In Motion’s (RIMM) BlackBerry OS.

Still, Apple iOS remains the horse to beat. Apple iOS during that six-month period had 28.6 percent of the total market compared with 26.1 percent for BlackBerry and 25.8 percent for Android.

Nielsen points out that Blackberry remains within the margin of error of Apple and Android. “In other words, RIM remains statistically tied with both Apple for first and Android for third. Apple’s clear lead over Android notwithstanding, this race might still be too close to call,” Nielsen said.

But Chris Davies in Slashgear said: “Android adoption over the past six-month period is the strongest among the three platforms, suggesting Apple’s hold on the top spot is unlikely to last.”

Smartphones are gaining on feature phones. Nielson said 45 percent of recent acquirers opted for a smartphone.

iPhones ‘drowning in a sea of Android phones’

Meanwhile, Apple France founder Jean-Louis Gassée is warning that Apple needs to license its iPhone to more carriers than AT&T (T) in the United States.

Gassée wrote on the Monday Note blog: “By refusing to license the operating system -- iOS in this case -- the iPhone will drown in a sea of Android smartphones.”

Is it déjà vu all over again? Gassée said: "We've seen it before: Apple is repeating the mistake that allowed Windows clones to scuttle the Mac."

Still, he expects the iPhone to remain a moneymaker: “That dominance probably won’t last, but in a sea of Android clones, Apple is likely to remain the most profitable smartphone maker.”

Loads of rumors are floating that Verizon Wireless (VZ) will break the AT&T iPhone monopoly by Valentine’s Day.