In Smartphone Race, Apple is the Eternal Number 2

Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android phones trounced Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhones during the first quarter of this year to grab 61 percent of the smartphone market in the U.S., according to NPD Group.

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Android’s current market share represents a hefty jump from the first quarter of last year, when Android represented 49 percent of the smartphone market. Apple’s iOS dropped from 41 percent of the market during the fourth quarter of 2011 to just 29 percent in the first quarter of 2012. Apple was helped in the fourth quarter by holiday demand for the iPhone 4s after having added Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE:S) to its list of carriers. Currently, iOS and Android represent 90 percent of the smartphone market

Collectively, smartphones sales held steady, representing 66 percent of the overall handset market. Of the top-selling handsets during the first quarter, all were smartphones, including three made by Samsung Electronics Co., and one each from Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. (NYSE:MMI), and HTC.

According to the latest research from Nielsen Holdings, more than two-thirds of people age 25-34 own a smart phone. Smart phone ownership is split evenly between men and women and is highest among Asian Americans, with over 67.3 percent using one as their main handset.

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