Android Pulls Ahead, While HTC Enjoys the Ride

Android (s goog) in the U.S. pushed ahead of smartphone platform rivals iOS (s aapl) and Blackberry (s rimm) in January, according to Nielsen Wire, and is finding more popularity among younger consumers. That has helped HTC become the third-largest smartphone manufacturer in the U.S. after Apple and Research In Motion, winning both the Android and Windows Phone 7 (s msft) manufacturing race ahead of rivals Motorola (s mmi) and Samsung.

The latest figures for January from Nielsen show that Android’s current market share has moved up to 29 percent from 27 percent in December following a torrid year of growth in 2010, while iOS dropped a point from 28 percent to 27 percent, remaining largely stable over the last year. RIM remained constant from January at 27 percent, but it’s still trying to reverse a significant slide over the last year. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile comes in with 10 percent, while Hewlett-Packard’s (s hpq) webOS and Palm OS account for 4 percent and Symbian (s nok) just 2 percent.

In the overall battle of manufacturers, however, Apple and RIM are tops with 27 percent each because they own their hardware and platforms. But among manufacturing vendors who build for other platforms, HTC has managed to best rivals on both Android and Windows Phone 7. It has a combined 19 percent of the market, with 12 percent on Android and 7 percent on Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile. Motorola has 11 percent: 10 percent coming from Android and 1 percent from WP7 and Windows Mobile. Samsung has about 7 percent of the U.S. smartphone market with 5 percent of the overall share from Android and 2 percent from Microsoft’s platforms.

Motorola has hitched its wagon to Android, which limits its sales potential for now. HTC has gotten ahead by embracing both Android and Microsoft’s OSes, something Samsung is also doing. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of effect Nokia (s nok) will have in the U.S. market when it starts selling WP7 devices, possibly before the end of this year. It has just 2 percent of the smartphone manufacturing market from the sale of Symbian phones. So very few Americans are used to buying a Nokia smartphone, but that could change with Microsoft’s software and branding.

Android, meanwhile, appears to be doing well selling to younger consumers. Six percent of its sales are to 18-24 year olds, ahead of iOS and RIM at 4 percent. That Android is selling 50 percent better to this demographic suggests that younger users are responding to the breadth of device choices and price points. It bodes well for Android as the smartphone market expands. Capturing younger users is good for long-term sales as younger users make the jump up from more messaging phones.

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