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User interest, satisfaction in Android approaching the iPhone

ChangeWave is finding high brand recognition for Android among surveyed users who are planning to purchase a smartphone over the next quarter, as well as high satisfaction rankings nearly as high as the leading iPhone.

The survey, held during the second week of December, asked 4,068 users about what phone they were using and their future purchasing plans over the upcoming three months. About 1,700 (42%) said they already owned a smartphone, a number that has ratcheted up dramatically from 15% just three years ago.

Another 520 of those surveyed (12.8%) said they planned to buy a new smartphone in the next three months. Of those, nearly 110 (21%) said they would "prefer to have the Android OS on their new phone," according to the report.

That's a big increase in Android's mindshare, which was formerly tied with the offerings from Palm at just 6% in the previous survey just three months earlier. Respondents in the latest survey stating a preference for Android beat out RIM's Blackberry and trounced Microsoft's Windows Mobile and the Palm WebOS, both of which lost a sizable chunk of their visibility in the December survey.

iPhone still in the lead

Still ahead of Android in terms of user's future plans is Apple's "iPhone OS X", which was the first choice for 28% of those planning to buy a new smartphone in the next three months. When asked what manufacturer of smartphone they planned to buy, those surveyed identified Apple's iPhone in 32% of their responses, indicating some confusion among users between operating systems and the phone's maker.

Surveyed on smartphone OS, Android approached the popularity of the iPhone' OS, but when asked about phone makers, Apple iPhone interest was ranked stronger while Android's partner manufacturers fractionalized responses. Motorola and HTC also make non-Android phones.

ChangeWave Android iPhone

Last year, ChangeWave reported that users with future smartphone plans indicated a 26 percentage point drop in interest in the iPhone following its original summer release. This year, future interest in Apple remained high even though the holiday quarter. Additionally, users who said they planned to buy an iPhone three months ago appeared to actually have done just that.

Apple's blockbuster winter 2009 quarter, for which analysts are estimating sales of between 8.17 and 11.3 million iPhones, appears to be around double the number of phones Apple sold in the year ago quarter, when users snapped up 4.36 million iPhones.

The winter quarter, Apple's fiscal Q1, has historically served as the last big quarter for iPhone sales before a spring lull of anticipation for the company's next big iPhone product launch. In 2010 however, Apple is widely expected to debut its new Tablet in the interim, appealing to a new class and type of users before launching the fourth generation iPhone in the summer.

Android rivalry

Of those 520 respondents who said they planned to buy an new smartphone over the next three months, 13% said they expected to buy a Motorola phone, and 9% said HTC. Those results reflect the exclusive attention Google paid to Motorola during the holiday launch of its Verizon Droid.

Google has now returned to HTC to help launch that company's Droid equivalent with the Nexus One. This time, however, Google is putting its own name on the device and selling it from its own website. The primary difference is that Droid is tied to Verizon's network and involves a $350 termination fee, while Nexus One is only compatible with T-Mobile's non-standard 3G network, which is significantly more limited than AT&T's.

Sales of the Motorola Droid haven't yet flavored the smartphone satisfaction rankings yet, but Android users overall (the vast majority of whom were early adopters of HTC models) ranked their platform highly, with 72% saying they were "very satisfied" with their current phone. That's nearly as high as those "very satisfied" with the iPhone (77%) and well ahead of those assigning the same ranking to the Palm Pre (58%), RIM Blackberry (41%), classic Palm OS (29%), and Windows Mobile (25%).

ChangeWave Android iPhone