Nielsen: Android leads US smartphone segment but Google weaker than Apple & RIM

Android holds pole position in the US smartphone battle when it comes to OS marketshare, but Google is at a weaker position versus iOS and BlackBerry because it is reliant on third-party manufacturers producing devices. That's Nielsen's stance at least, going by the latest set of postpaid mobile subscribers across smartphone platforms between November 2010 and January 2011. The researchers claim Android has 29-percent of the market, but shared predominantly between HTC (12-percent), Motorola (10-percent) and Samsung (5-percent).

In contrast, while Apple has 27-percent of the market with iOS, and RIM another 27-percent with BlackBerry OS, the fact that both companies control not only software but hardware leaves them in a stronger position overall, Nielsen suggests. Meanwhile, Android is apparently more popular with younger users, dominating iOS and BlackBerry OS in the 18-24 age range.

Whether Google would agree with Nielsen's conclusions – or at least that it's in a weaker position despite holding more marketshare – is arguable. The search giant's motivation with Android has always been to get its apps and adverts in front of as many users as possible; the fact that it doesn't make the handsets itself hasn't seemed a problem, and of course it has stepped in twice before, with the Nexus One and Nexus S, when it's deemed OEMs need some guidance-by-example in how the smartphone segment should be progressing.

Update: It's also worth noting that Nielsen's figures don't include the Verizon iPhone 4, which didn't launch until early February.