Who's winning in U.S. smartphone market? (Hint: It's not Nokia)

Android, iOS, BlackBerry in virtual tie for most-popular mobile OS

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The latest Nielsen research on the U.S. smartphone market unsurprisingly shows Google's Android (29%), Apple's iOS (27%) and Research in Motion's BlackBerry OS (27%) in a virtual three-way tie for the most popular mobile operating system through January.

(Also see: Nokia partners with Microsoft, adopts Windows Phone 7)

These three have been neck and neck for several months now, with Android quickly making up ground on its established competitors. In the first quarter of 2010, according to Nielsen, only 9 percent of smartphone subscribers had an Android-powered device, versus 36 percent who had BlackBerries and 28 percent who owned iPhones.

It'll be interesting to see the data from February on, when sales of Verizon's iPhone are counted. Don't be surprised to see Apple nudge its numbers up a point or two, with Android gaining slightly -- both at the expense of RIM.

The chart's below, but in case you were wondering about Microsoft's Windows mobile platform, it had 10 percent of the market from November through January, down from 18 percent in the first quarter of 2010.

That's better than Nokia, whose Symbian platform now has 2 percent of the U.S. smartphone OS market.

Now's a good time to review a boast made by Microsoft and Nokia on Feb. 11, when the two struggling smartphone players announced they would join forces to unleash their combined unwanted smartphones onto an indifferent public:

There are other mobile ecosystems. We will disrupt them.

Sure they will. And then they'll steal the Krabby Patty formula.

Nielsen

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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