Nielsen Data Shows Android, BlackBerry, Apple in Tight Race for Smartphone Dominance

Saying it may be too close to call, Nielsen has released a new batch of interesting data indicating that Apple appears to be clinging to a very small lead over Android and BlackBerry in terms of US smartphone market share.

And by “small,” Nielsen means nearly infinitesimal.

As it turns out, the race for the lead in U.S. smartphone operating system (OS) consumer market share is “tighter than it has ever been.”

As of November’s data, Apple’s iOS has captured 28.6% of the smartphone operating system market share.

RIM’s BlackBerry operating system, however, which came in second overall with 26.1% of the market share, is within the margin of error for both first and third places.

Google’s Android finished third with 25.8% of the market.

“RIM remains statistically tied with both Apple for first and Android for third,” the Nielsen report concludes. “Apple’s clear lead over Android notwithstanding, this race might still be too close to call.”

In November 2010, 45% of mobile phone “acquirers” sprung for a smartphone over a feature phone. But, incredibly, despite placing third in overall market share, the popularity of the Android OS among those who purchased a smartphone in the last six months (40%) makes it the leading OS among recent acquirers.

Nielsen’s data, however, gives no clear suggestion as to which smartphone maker is best poised to pull ahead of its competitors as 2011 progresses. As it now stands, it would appear that each prominent brand will roll out new models of their handsets this year. As a result, the race might actually grow even tighter before a clear victor emerges.