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Why there's no stopping the Android train

Apple's iPhone is on its way to becoming a niche player, suggest data from numerous recent reports.

It's a rare week indeed that doesn't see the emergence of some fresh news of Android's ascendance, but lately the evidence has been coming particularly fast and furious, suggesting that there really is no stopping the mobile platform--at least not anytime soon.

Planned Purchases

A new study from consumer intelligence firm Market Force Information, for example, has found that more consumers are planning to buy an Android phone than an iPhone.

According to the December survey of 5600 North American consumers, some 51 percent said they already own smartphones; of those who didn't, 33 percent planned to buy one within the next six months. When asked which type of smartphone they would buy, 34 percent of survey respondents said Android, while only 21 percent said iPhone and 12 percent said BlackBerry. Roughly 25 percent were undecided, Market Force reports.

"With the Verizon-Apple partnership in motion, we anticipated that more consumers would be moving to the iPhone, so it intrigued us to see the sizable shift toward the Android," said Janet Eden-Harris, chief marketing officer for Market Force, in a Tuesday statement. "Some of our other research data shows that consumers aren't likely to switch from their current wireless carriers, and a large portion use Sprint and T-Mobile, so Android will most likely be their smartphone choice."

App Markets

Applications are among smartphone platforms' biggest attractions for consumers, Market Force notes, and they are spurring overall market adoption. That's obviously why all the major mobile platforms' app stores are rapidly expanding -- what's surprising is just how fast they're doing that.

In fact, the Android Market is exploding in size particularly quickly. Whereas revenues from Apple's App Store increased 131.9 percent between 2009 and 2010, the Android Market blew that away with an 861.5 percent increase during that time, according to several reports this week citing worldwide research firm IHS.

Along the way, Apple's market dominance slipped from 93 percent in 2009 to 83 percent in 2010, while Android's grew from 1.3 percent to 4.7 percent. Nokia's Ovi Store, by comparison, grew by 719 percent between 2009 and 2010, while BlackBerry App World grew by 360 percent, according to the IHS data.

The Android Market is also growing faster in terms of the number of applications it includes. The Apple App Store doubled in size during 2010 to almost 300,000 applications, according to a report last month from research firm Distimo. Yet Google's Android Market grew to almost 130,000, which is six times the number it had a year ago. BlackBerry App World and Nokia Ovi Store offer 18,000 and 25,000 applications, respectively.

This latest round of data supports what Lookout Mobile Security's App Genome Project reported recently, too. According to Lookout's data, the volume of apps in the Android Market has increased by 127 percent since August of last year, compared with just 44 percent for the App Store. If that rate continues, the Android Market will surpass the App Store in volume by mid-2012, Lookout predicts.

So, while Android is clearly still a smaller player than iOS in the app arena for now, that doesn't look likely to last long. Android is also increasingly the popular choice with developers.

A Winning Strategy

Predictions for Android's ongoing success are by no means in short supply, but security expert Eugene Kaspersky recently put his particularly succinctly: Android will eventually hold 80 percent of the smartphone market, he predicted, reducing Apple's iPhone and RIM's BlackBerry platforms to niche players with 10 percent each.

"I believe that if Apple, BlackBerry, Microsoft...don't change their strategy very soon we will soon have the same mobile operating system landscape as we have with computers," Kaspersky told journalists at the recent Mobile World Congress.

An Enterprise Push

Finally, while there's no doubt Android is winning the hearts of the masses, the workplace is another matter. Google clearly recognizes that, however, and has recently hired several business-focused executives from Oracle, as Fortune noted on Monday.

Then, too, there are all the technological reasons for Android's success. Buoyed by all this latest data, I'll say it again: It won't be so very long before the iPhone becomes a niche player.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk .

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