June 23, 2011 at 2:37 PM ET
As the iPhone starts to proliferate on other carriers after being released from AT&T's exclusive hold, it threatens to encroach upon the once-comfy rule Android phones have enjoyed in the smartphone market.
One analyst, Needham & Co.'s Charlie Wolf, says that a recent decline of Android's market share in the U.S. — from 52.4 percent to 49.5 percent in first quarter of 2011 — signals the beginning of the end of the Google mobile operating system's unrivaled ascent to the top of the smartphone heap.
GigaOM's Ryan Kim quoted from Needham's note, which points to a possible surge in iPhone 5 sales once the new model arrives this fall on Verizon.
In a report released in May, the addition of the iPhone to the Verizon network accounted for a boost in sales for Apple (16.9 million iPhones sold to fanboys and girls in 90 countries, doubling its sales from the same time last year), but Android held onto the No.1 spot at 36 percent of the market share worldwide.
In just a few short years, we've seen Android — with its prolific installment on so many models over so many carriers — shoot by leaps and bounds over other systems, until finally it surpassed Symbian for the No.1 spot during the first quarter of 2011.
But faster than a medieval coup — the king is dead, long live the king — it looks like Apple's iOS may be poised to hoist iPhones over the palace walls with big gains in the first quarter of 2011 (29.5 percent, up from 17.2 percent in the previous quarter), and with the iOs bumping up from 19 percent to 28 percent (thanks to CNN Money's Philip Elmer-DeWitt for providing more snippets from Needham's note).
More reason to think that Apple may very well overtake Google: cheaper iPhones? That's what GigaOM's Kim writes, and that would make for some interesting jousts since Android phones have historically been more accessible to the more cost-conscious consumer.
Still sliding: Nokia and Research in Motion (which recently started issuing pink slips), which bolsters the reality that the smartphone wars are really between Apple and Google at this point.