Nielsen: Half of all American subscribers now own a smartphone

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Roughly half of all American mobile subscribers now own a smartphone, according to new data from Nielsen, marking a watershed moment in adoption. According to Nielsen, 49.7 percent of Americans owned a smartphone in February, up from 36 percent in February 2011 and 29 percent in October 2010.

Click here for more details from Nielsen's report.

According to Nielsen, the upsurge in growth has been driven by both the increased number of smartphone models in the market and customers' increasing preference for smartphones over feature phones. More than two-thirds of those who bought a new mobile device in the last three months chose a smartphone over a feature phone, according to Nielsen.

Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS make up the bulk of the U.S. smartphone market, with 48 percent of smartphone owners saying they owned an Android device and 32.1 percent owning an iPhone. In another mark of its eroding market share, 11.6 percent of Americans said they owned a BlackBerry device from Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), down from a 27 percent share in a Nielsen survey released in March 2011

The trend toward smartphones is not merely a U.S. phenomenon though. The worldwide market for smart connected devices, including PCs, media tablets, and smartphones, saw shipments of more than 916 million units and revenues surpassing $489 billion dollars in 2011, according to IDC. The research firm said that smart devices will reach 1.1 billion units in 2012 and 1.84 billion in 2016. Over that time period, smartphones will continue to eat into the share of PCs, IDC predicted.

According to IDC, the number of Android-based devices running ARM CPUs will grow modestly from 29.4 percent share of smart devices in 2011 to a market-leading 31.1 percent share in 2016. Meanwhile, iOS-based devices, including iPhones and iPads, will grow from 14.6 percent of smart devices in 2011 to 17.3 percent in 2016.

For more:
- see this Nielsen post
- see this IDC release
- see this Engadget post

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Article updated March 29 to reflect that Nielsen's survey covered American mobile subscribers, not all Americans.