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Bruised, Battered Apple Dominates Google, Samsung

Stocks in this article: AAPL GOOG MSFT

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- If you do not understand mindshare vs. marketshare, you do not understand Apple (AAPL).

Anytime you hear the words "number" and "one" associated with Google (GOOG) or Samsung, put your critical thinking caps on. A top ranking for either company, as a smartphone OEM or platform, simply means that together they have taken the relatively easy route to sell tons of units.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

It's a matter of taste. And there's no doubt the strategy will pay off, particularly for Google. The company sits in the middle of an impressive process of pulling many of its moving parts together -- social, services, software, hardware -- to create an ecosystem that will doom Microsoft (MSFT), not Apple.

The latest smartphone marketshare numbers from comScore only reinforce the notion that Apple owns mindshare as an operating system and consumer brand, whereas Google only claims the marketshare crown with Android because it opens itself up to the world.

In the most recent quarterly reporting period ending February 2013, comScore estimates Apple increased its lead over number two Samsung. Thirty-eight-point-nine percent of smartphone subscribers carry iPhones. That's up 3.9% from the previous three-month window, dwarfing Samsung's share -- spread across multiple devices -- of 21.3% (a 1.0% quarter-over-quarter increase).

Shift from OEMS to operating platforms and, even though it lost two percentage points between the beginning of December 2012 and the end of February 2013, Google's Android still commands 51.7% of the market vs. iOS's 38.9% (up 3.9% Q-over-Q).

It's plain to see: If Apple opened iOS up tomorrow to anybody who wanted to license it, power a piece of hardware with it or make a misguided attempt to integrate their social network into mobile devices with it, it would dominate the market. As both an OEM and platform, Apple could adopt a hybrid of the Samsung/Google strategy and have, without breaking a sweat, 80% market in North American and beyond.

But that's not what Apple does. If it starts, make no mistake, it beats itself. Google and Samsung would deserve credit for little more than planting the idea in Tim Cook's head to shift course and veer from the Apple way.

That's precisely why things like premium-priced iPad minis and iTVs make sense -- and work/will work for Apple -- whereas the color and size change strategies we have seen with iPod should be used sparingly, if at all, elsewhere in the product line.

Don't look to Google or Samsung or OS marketshare numbers to see if Apple is winning or losing. You'll wind up making unfair comparisons like so much of the tech and financial media.

Even in its uncertain -- dare I say bruised and battered state (at least psychologically and in the eyes of Wall Street) -- Apple dominates the smartphone wars. Don't expect that to change unless Tim Cook stumbles and makes it so.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

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