Android Passes iPhone as Most Desired Smartphone. Barely

Android has been outselling the iPhone, but Apple’s iPhone (s aapl) was still reportedly the most desired smartphone in the U.S. until recently, according to the Nielsen Co. Not anymore. Nielsen said 31.1 percent of respondents in March said they want their next smartphone to be an Android device, while 30 percent said they wanted an iPhone.

Nielsen said consumers planning on buying an Android in the next year increased from 25.5 percent in July to September while people planning on buying an iPhone slipped from 32.7 percent during the same period. That’s not terribly surprising considering the growing momentum behind Android. But it shows Android’s appeal is continuing to grow even despite the broader availability of the iPhone on Verizon (s vz).

Before, Android’s rise could have been chalked up to the iPhone’s limitatation to just one carrier. But it’s increasingly showing it’s attractive on its own, not just as a more accessible alternative to the iPhone. The iPhone is still limited in distribution, and opening availability to Sprint (s s) and T-Mobile could shift things somewhat. But at this point, it seems like Android appeal is rock-solid while the iPhone is cooling off somewhat with consumers.

The smartphone race looks more and more like a two-horse competition, according to Nielsen. Only 10.5 percent of consumers said they planned on buying a BlackBerry (s rim) device, down from 12.6 percent in July through September. Interest in Windows (s msft) devices also slipped from 6.8 percent last year to 6.4 percent this year, even with the launch of Windows Phone 7 in November.

Android continues to rule the smartphone marketshare battle with 37 percent, compared to 27 percent for the iPhone and 22 percent for BlackBerry. Recent statistics show how much momentum is behind Android. Fifty percent of people who purchased a smartphone in the past six months said they had chosen an Android device,while 25 percent said they had bought an iPhone, and 15 percent said they got a BlackBerry device.

Apple is still sucking down the biggest profits, and has become the largest phone vendor by revenue. And it still has a lead when you consider all iOS devices compared to Android. But Android’s momentum, especially in smartphones, is just getting stronger. If it can replicate that success in tablets, it won’t be long before it has a greater overall ecosystem reach soon.