Apple Takes the Fight to Android

A new survey reveals that Apple's (NAS: AAPL) iOS smartphone operating system is closing in fast on Google's (NAS: GOOG) market-dominating Android operating system. Here's what it means for the two companies, and what it means for the market space.

Apple closes the once-yawning gap
The survey was conducted by Nielsen and found that, among Americans over the last three months who bought new smartphones, 44.5% bought an iPhone versus the 46.9% who purchased a handset running Android. RIM (NAS: RIMM) , maker of the Blackberry, polled at 4.5% market share. If the Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) Windows Phone operating system polled at all, it wasn't mentioned in the results.

This survey stands in stark contrast to an earlier Nielsen survey taken in October. Again polling Americans who bought a new smartphone within the previous three months, this survey found that just 25.1% went with the iPhone while 61.6% went with an Android handset. RIM's Blackberry again came in dead last at 7.7% market share, and Windows Phone apparently didn't rate at all.

Thank you, iPhone 4S
It's obvious that the introduction of the iPhone 4S in October was the reason behind Apple's surge in the ratings.The December survey specifically found, in fact, that a full 57% of new iPhone owners bought the iPhone 4S. Nielsen didn't say how many people surveyed bought the iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4.

Neither survey bodes particularly well for Microsoft's new Windows Phone operating system, but to be fair, the system hasn't had its fair shot in the marketplace yet; the big marketing and manufacturing push is just getting underway, and goes hand-in-glove with the launch of the new range of smartphone handsets from Finnish cellphone giant Nokia (NYS: NOK) .

The little Cupertino company that could
The iPhone getting even this close to Android in terms of market share is astounding. Android is the Microsoft Windows of smartphone operating software, i.e., anyone and their mother can pick it up and adapt it to their handsets without much muss or fuss, which can make the end cost to the consumer much more attractive than that of the iPhone. Apple's performance here says a lot for the power of the brand.

But definitely look for Nokia and Microsoft to make some sort of a dent in the next poll. The new Nokia 900 handset, a high-end, 4G phone set to debut on the AT&T network later this year, is getting good reviews. Nokia and Microsoft are placing their biggest bets on this partnership to get them back in the smartphone game; they're determined to make it work, and have the deep pockets to make a serious run at it.

As for RIM and its once-dominant Blackberry, most everyone is waiting for the company's final swoon into either bankruptcy or buyout, whichever comes first.

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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorJohn Grgurichthinks Apple should break out the Superman cape after this performance, but he owns no shares of any of the companies mentioned in this column. The Motley Fool, however, owns shares of Apple, Microsoft, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a scintillatingdisclosure policy.

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