updated 4/1/2011 7:44:38 PM ET 2011-04-01T23:44:38

Apple Inc. increased its share of the U.S. mobile phone market faster than any other cellphone maker in December through February, though its iPhone is still used by only a small fraction of U.S. subscribers, according to a new report from comScore Inc.

ComScore found that Apple has about 7.5 percent of the 234 million cellphone subscribers in the U.S., up 0.9 percentage points from November.

Despite the iPhone's high visibility, Apple still ranks behind cellphone makers such as Samsung, LG and Motorola. But its small market share is one reason analysts remain enthusiastic about its stock because there seems to be room for the Cupertino, Calif.-based company to grow.

Samsung's market share grew 0.3 percentage points to 24.8 percent, while LG's stayed the same at 20.9 percent and Motorola's fell 0.9 percentage points to 16.1 percent.

At the same time, another comScore statistic released Friday shows Apple faces serious competition.

Google Inc. is giving its smartphone software — called Android — away for free as a way to get a foothold in the exploding market for Internet-connected mobile devices. And it's now inside 33 percent of the 69.5 million smartphones in the U.S., an increase of 7 percentage points from November, comScore found.

That makes Google the leader in operating software for smartphones in the U.S.

Because Android is free and backed by the world's biggest Internet search engine, Google has had an easy time convincing smartphone makers to use it.

Next after Google in comScore's rankings was Research in Motion Ltd., which makes the BlackBerry family of devices, but it has lost market share. Apple was in third place.

The Apple-Google smartphone rivalry is emerging as one of the hottest skirmishes in Silicon Valley as more and more computing happens on mobile devices instead of desktop and laptop computers.

ComScore draws its conclusions from a survey of 30,000 cellphone subscribers in the U.S.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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