Comscore: Android Still Growing Strong While RIM Continues To Fade

New mobile market share numbers out from Comscore (NSDQ: SCOR) indicate that Android handsets are expanding their lead over rival platforms at the expense of Research in Motion (NSDQ: RIMM), which continues to fall behind the pace set by Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) in the U.S. market.

Comscore’s latest three-month tally of the U.S. smartphone market showed that Android increased its market-leading share from 33 percent in February 2011 to 38.1 percent in May. Apple, the second-place vendor as measured by market share, gained 1.4 percentage points from February to May, increasing its share from 25.2 percent to 26.6 percent. These numbers are for phones only, and so therefore don’t include iPad shipments viewed against Android tablet shipments.

When viewed from the perspective of hardware device makers, Samsung continued to lead the way with 24.8 percent of the market: a number that includes both smartphones and regular old mobile phones. Apple posted the strongest increase among handset makers, gaining 1.2 points of market share, far more than any other vendor, and perhaps giving some credence to the notion that the launch of the Verizon iPhone has been very good for Apple. However, the theory that the Verizon iPhone would send Android’s market share lower doesn’t seem to be playing out quite yet. While Android’s growth has slowed compared to earlier in the year (In May, Comscore said Android had grown 6 percentage points over the prior three months while in June it reported a gain of 5.2 points over the prior three-month period), the law of big numbers starts to come into play at a certain point.

No matter how you slice the market, RIM continues to have a poor year. It lost 4.2 points of operating system market share from February to May, falling behind Apple at the end of the period with 24.7 percent market share. It’s been a long time since RIM has had a new phone, and given that its first BlackBerry 7 handsets are way behind schedule, it could be looking at another grim three-month period when Comscore’s numbers for June, July, and August are released.

The U.S. smartphone market itself continues to expand, with Comscore estimating that 76.8 million people in this country owned a smartphone during the three-month period ending in May. With Comscore tracking over mobile usage at 234 million, that means its estimate that 32 percent of people in the U.S. own a smartphone is roughly equivalent to numbers released last week by Nielsen. Nielsen also estimated, however, that among new buyers, smartphone adoption is outpacing regular phones.