U.S. Mobile Customers Now Prefer Android Phones Over iPhones

Google has won another small victory in the long and documentedbattle between Android and Apple operating systems.

For the first time, Android phones are the most coveted smartphones among U.S. mobile consumers, according to a survey Nielsen released Tuesday.

In a series of monthly surveys between January 2011 and March 2011, 31% of consumers who were planning on getting a new smartphone indicated that Android was their preferred OS, compared to 30% who preferred the iPhone.

The same surveys in July and September 2010 showed that 26% of these consumers wanted an Android phone while 33% wanted an iPhone.

Comparisons like these aren’t perfect. Android’s OS runs on multiple devices made by non-Google manufacturers, while iOS runs exclusively on Apple devices. Comparing the two pits one manufacturer’s products against a basket of other manufacturers’ collective products.

But Android’s increasing presence on smartphone wish lists does suggest increasing competition for Apple’s iPhone in the future, as do current trends in market share.

In a Nielsen survey conducted in March, 37% of U.S. mobile phone owners indicated that they owned Android devices, compared to 27% who said they owned iPhones. When respondents were narrowed down to consumers who had purchased their phones in the previous six months, however, Android’s share increased to 50% and Apple’s share decreased to 25%. (RIM experienced an even more drastic decrease of 7%.)

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