Nielsen: iPhone holds onto narrow lead in smartphones

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The new year opens with a horse-race over smartphone domination, with The Nielsen Company reporting on market share from a poll conducted in November. Coming around the stretch—or just breaking out of the gates, depending upon where you see things—the iPhone retains the lead in smartphones with 28.6 percent, followed by BlackBerry at 26.1 percent and Android at 25.8 percent.

Nielsen does mention, however, that RIM’s share is within the margin of error of both Apple and Android, meaning that it’s technically tied with both. While the research firm maintains that Apple’s lead over Android is clear, it does say that the overall smartphone market race is “too close to call.”

The data is a bit clearer for recent sales: Android has a 40.8 percent share of smartphones sold in the last six months, showing a steady increase since June. iPhones hold steady at 26.9 percent, while BlackBerries were just 19.2 percent. So while most of the tech industry thinks it's Apple and Android fighting for smartphone dominance, the sales numbers suggest that Android’s main gains are coming at BlackBerry's expense.

As for Android’s hefty lead in recent sales, it’s worth noting that carriers have been aggressively pushing Android phones with substantial deals on carrier hardware while Apple is content to let its phones sell at static price points. And, of course, new Android phones are constantly emerging, while new iPhones only come around every year or so. As a result, it would seem that the idea that consumers are, en masse, "choosing Android," is certainly a tough argument to make.

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