In what is shaping up to be the first big tech fight of the 21st century, Apple and Google are constantly raging a war of words over who is shipping more mobile phones, and also who is activating more of them.  Every time Google says a number, Apple pops up with a number that somehow tops them, and then we get into another round of who is in the lead.  Well, a new report has come out that says Google’s Android is taking over globally, but Apple is leading in the USA, so lets see how this gets spun now.

According to a report from Canalys about smartphone sales and operating system market share in the third quarter of this year, Apple has now become the leading company in terms of sales in the United States with 26 percent of the market.  Globally Nokia is still number one with a 33 percent share, but Google is creeping up on them with a quarter of the market.

Canalys q3 2010Where things take a shift is when you look at the marketshare in the United States broken down by operating systems.  While Apple leads in shipments, it is one company shipping one (maybe two) handsets, while Android is split up over numerous manufacturers and models.  From the chart shown here (please note that “OHA” stands for “Open Handset Alliance”, AKA Android), Google is tearing it up when it comes to that breakdown.

This may also be why we heard Steve Jobs at the last keynote referring to it as “we are activating X number of iOS devices per day”.  He wasn’t talking about just the iPhone any more, but he was counting in the iPad and iPod Touch also.  If we start going in that direction for counting OS marketshare, have fun when we start counting all the Android tablets that are preparing to flood the market.

At the end of the day the only reason this matters is that it should help direct where application developers allocate their resources.  If they only have enough money to develop for one OS, they’ll probably go for whoever has the most market share, but oddly we haven’t seen that happening.  Apple’s App Store is still trouncing the heck out of Android’s Market, so who knows what motivates developers at this point.

Here’s a crazy idea, buy the phone that best suits you and lets not worry about who’s “winning”.

What say you?  Does it even matter who the bigger company is?