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Apple responds to Android sales, says NPD data doesn't tell whole story

A day after the NPD Group revealed new data showing Android mobile phones outsold the iPhone last quarter, Apple has responded by calling the results "very limited."

Apple spokesperson Natalie Harrison spoke with Jim Dalrymple of The Loop Tuesday to offer the company's official stance on new data from NPD that suggested the collective number of smartphones sold running Google's Android operating system exceeded the total number of iPhones sold in the first quarter of 2010. Apple instead cited numbers released last week that showed the iPhone with more than 16.1 percent market share of smartphones sold worldwide.

"This is a very limited report on 150,000 U.S. consumers responding to an online survey and does not account for the more than 85 million iPhone and iPod touch customers worldwide," Harrison reportedly said. "IDC figures show that iPhone has 16.1 percent of the smartphone market and growing, far outselling Android on a worldwide basis.

She continued: "We had a record quarter with iPhone sales growing by 131 percent and with our new iPhone OS 4.0 software coming this summer, we see no signs of the competition catching up anytime soon."

The IDC numbers from last week placed Apple in third place, behind market leaders Nokia and Research in Motion, which held 39.3 percent and 19.4 percent market share, respectively. But that survey referred to hardware manufacturers, and the two largest Android providers — HTC and Motorola — came in fourth and fifth globally, behind Apple.

The NPD data, which Apple commented on Tuesday, instead represented mobile operating systems on smartphones. It did not include the iPod touch or iPad, both of which also run the iPhone OS but are not smartphones.

Dalyrmple also noted that while RIM's BlackBerry and Google's Android were ahead of the iPhone OS in first-quarter sales, both RIM and Google often participate in "buy one, get one free" sales and similar promotions. Apple, instead, only offers the iPhone in three models, at three distinctive price points.

In addition, the iPhone is only available on one carrier — AT&T — in the U.S., while Android is available on a variety of networks. And while Apple's product lineup is simple, Google has partnered with a number of hardware manufacturers who have embraced Android. NPD noted that sales of the Motorola Droid and HTC Droid Eris were strong and helped Verizon compete with AT&T in overall smartphone sales in the first quarter of 2010.

The NPD figures were based on sales data from more than 150,000 completed online consumer research surveys. The study is conducted each month, and NPD claims the results are representative of the entire population of U.S. consumers.