Google's Android operating system is rapidly gaining mindshare among smartphone users. So much mindshare, in fact, that one Web traffic researcher is declaring that Android has finally been able to distract potential smartphone users from Apple's iPhone juggernaut.
If true, that's great news for Google, which is preparing to deliver the Google-branded Nexus One early in the new year and stake a permanent position as a smartphone powerhouse.
The statistics on Android excitement come from ComScore, which in a Dec. 17 report said that smartphone users it polled showed a dramatic shift in user interest in Android phones.
In an August report, when Android phones had yet to erupt and only the T-Mobile G1 and T-Mobile MyTouch were widely available, Comscore reported 7 percent of users who planned to buy an Android-based smartphone in the next three months, and 21 percent of users planning to buy an iPhone.
Fast forward to Nov. 8, when Comscore posed the question again, and according to the researcher, 17 percent of respondents indicated plans to buy an Android device and 20 percent said they planned to buy an iPhone.
That's to be expected, what with the release of Motorola's Droid and a host of other hot Android smartphones. But as Comscore points out, it's still an indication that Android is catching on: a gain in mindshare in addition to its gradually building market share.
"With handsets on multiple carriers, from multiple manufacturers, and numerous Android device models expected to be in the U.S. market by January, the Android platform is rapidly shaking up the smartphone market," said Mark Donovan, Comscore's senior vice president, mobile, in a statement with the report. "While iPhone continues to set the bar with its App Store and passionate user base, and RIM remains the leader among the business set, Android is clearly gaining momentum among developers and consumers."
Perhaps even more crucially, ComScore's report found a key similarity in iPhone and Android users: they're more apt to engage mobile media and use all or most of the capabilities of their devices compared to other smartphone users.
Seeing as Apple has gone to great pains to paint the iPhone as the only device users need thanks to the richness of its features -- and has seen a corresponding explosion in interest in its App Store -- that has to be good news for Google, Android and the burgeoning Android Market and app development community.
Research In Motion's BlackBerry was still the dominant handset brand in Comscore's recent numbers, with 18 percent of Comscore's respondents saying they would be buying a BlackBerry Pearl, the highest percentage of respondents for any single device. (The Motorola Droid, the highest scoring Android device, netted 8 percent.)
On the low end of the spectrum, less than two percent of consumers said they were in the market for a Palm Pre.