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Android tops iPhone in US (no thanks to the Nexus One)

Googlephone munches more crow

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Google continues to eat crow over the Nexus One.

On Monday, Sprint - America's third largest wireless carrier - told Gizmodo it had changed its mind about joining Mountain View's online handset store and offering service in tandem with the Googlephone. As recently as March, the carrier said that it would partner with Google on a version of the Nexus One known as, er, the N1.

The announcement comes just two weeks after Google announced in less than straightforward fashion that Verizon, America's largest carrier, wouldn't be joining its online Nexus One store and that Vodafone would only sell the phone in retail shops. Like Verizon, Sprint runs a network based on the black sheep CDMA standard, and it would seem that Google has abandoned plans to offer a CDMA incarnation of the handset it insisted on calling a "superphone" when it was launched in January.

Google continues to sell the original GSM version of the phone from its online store, and T-Mobile - who placed its eggs in Google's basket from the earliest days of Android - still offers service with a subsidized version of the handset. But it's quite clear that Google's original dream for its superphone is well and truly over.

Analysts estimate the phone has sold a mere 500,000 devices, but Google always said it never expected to sell many devices. It wanted to create a "new way" of buying smartphones.

In launching the Nexus One, Mountain View insisted it wasn't competing with existing Android partners like Motorola and Verizon, but obviously, these partners saw things differently. You can bet that Verizon and Vodfone, a part owner of Verizon, talked their way out of Google's online store, and though Sprint may have fallen by the wayside because Verizon's exit made a CDMA phone less viable, it's gone nonetheless. Sprint says it abandoned the Nexus One because of the "upcoming availability of the award-winning Evo 4G," an Android phone sold through traditional channels.

As it turns out, Android is thriving in such channels. According the latest numbers from NPD Group, Google's mobile OS has moved past the iPhone to grab the number two spot in the US market. NPD says that Android accounted for 28 per cent of smartphones sold in the first quarter, compared with 21 per cent for the iPhone. The RIM BlackBerry is still top with 36 per cent.

Of course, Google wants to keep this market share. And to do so, it must eat that crow. ®

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