Android is No. 1 OS, but Apple, RIM rule devices

Google’s Android OS is leading the pack for smartphone market share in the U.S., but when it comes to the largest smartphone manufacturer, RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) are neck-in-neck for the top position. Table after the jump.

The data, which comes from Nielsen and covers the period between November 2010 and February 2011, indicates that Apple and RIM are the biggest single smartphone vendors, at 27 percent each.

Meanwhile, Android devices collectively make up 29 percent of all smartphones in the U.S., making it the most popular OS, but that number is divided up between three main vendors—HTC (12 percent), Motorola (NYSE: MMI) (10 percent) and Samsung (five percent)—plus a selection of smaller shares that get grouped as “others” and account for just two percent of all Android sales. (Those others probably include the likes of LG (SEO: 066570), ZTE, Sony (NYSE: SNE) Ericsson (NSDQ: ERIC) and Huawei).

Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), the other player that is deploying its OS across multiple vendors, has, at 10 percent, a far smaller market share than Android, but an equally fragmented number of vendors making devices on the platform.

Here are some takeaways:

—RIM and Apple, being both leaders in OS and in actual handsets sold, are in the stronger position as far as issues of fragmentation are concerned, compared to the likes of the Android and Windows Phone vendors.

—Nokia (NYSE: NOK), with only a two percent share of the market, has a very long way to go before it can claim a strong position, considering that it is partnering with an equally small-market-share OS, in the form of Microsoft’s Windows Phone. If anything, it would seem that partnering both with Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Microsoft would have been the smart option, if one of Nokia’s biggest goals was to keep itself in the game in the U.S. market (and elsewhere). But that’s not something that has been entirely ruled out by either party.

—So far, HTC has been the most successful in playing the multiple OS game, but at a 19 percent share, it is still quite a ways behind RIM and Apple.

—Other data from Nielsen shows that in terms of age breakdown, all the OS’s are virtually identical, except for in one respect: Android leads by two percentage points as the most popular OS with 16-24 year olds. That points not only to lower prices but also securing key customers for years to come.

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