Research firm Nielsen today published its third-quarter survey of mobile users, confirming that the smartphone market remains a two-horse race between Android and iOS. Google’s smartphone platform grew its share of the smartphone market in the United States by four percentage points, from 39 percent to 43 percent. Apple’s iOS during the same period remained relatively flat at 28 percent, making them the nation’s top smartphone manufacturer (Canalyis begs to differ).

Nielsen’s study has more than four out of ten mobile phone user, or 43 percent, reporting owning a smartphone in the third quarter. The numbers don’t bode well for other players who continue seeing their share shrink as a result of Android’s growth, unlike Apple. Microsoft’s mobile platforms combined took a seven percent share, a two percentage points decline. Research In Motion’s BlackBerry OS lost two percentage points during the September quarter, down to 18 percent from 20 percent.

And look what happened to Hewlett-Packard’s webOS and Nokia’s Symbian: Both are now filed under the Other category. The third-quarter survey largely echoes Nielsen’s June data. While Android remains the king of the hill in smartphones, things change if you consider the broader mobile market.

Per another survey released yesterday by Net Applications, which monitors 40,000 web sites, iOS devices combined widened Apple’s lead in October by seven percentage points to 61.64 percent web usage share. Android? Its usage share went up from 16.9 percent to 18.9 percent, barely one-fifth of the entire mobile market. Just as Apple CEO Tim Cook said during the October 4 iPhone 4S unveiling, smartphone penetration among various age groups is growing. More on that and another pretty chart after the break.

Smartphone penetration among the segment of consumers aged 25-34 has increased from 41 percent in the third quarter of 2010 to 62 percent in Q3 2011. Even though only 43 percent of all U.S. mobile phone subscribers own a smartphone, “the vast majority” of those under the age of 44 now have smartphones, Nielsen noted. Specifically, 62 percent of consumers aged 25-34 own one and smartphone penetration among those aged 18-24 and 35-44 is about 54 percent. Around 40 percent of 12-17 year-old teens and 40 percent of 45-54 year-olds reported owning a smartphone.

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