(Google Android, RIM and Apple story updated with reaction from Artio Global Investors' Sam Dedio.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Google's ( GOOG) Android is now the most sought-after operating system among consumers who purchased a smart phone in the past six months, while the BlackBerry RIM ( RIMM) and Apple ( AAPL) iOS are in "statistical dead heat" for second place among recent buyers, according to The Nielsen Company's August data.

The Nielsen research covers a period that includes a full-month of iPhone 4 availability. The device arrived at stores at the end of June.

Nielsen analyst Roger Entner said Nielsen surveyed about 25,000 people per month for the study, or about 300,000 people in total.

What you see with the Android's spectacular growth is that choice and variety is key," Entner said. Consumers "can get Android phones now with most carriers, though not all. They are really succeeding."

Echoing his thoughts, Morningstar analyst Toan Tran said the Android is definitely picking up in popularity because it's available in many more carriers than its rivals.

"It's one compelling device if you do not want to have an iPhone."

Artio Global Investors' Sam Dedio noted also that "Android-based phones are being introduced at much lower price points than the Apple phones -- which resonates well with cost-conscious consumers -- and that the smart-phone capabilities -- such as web browsing and apps -- that Android-based phones have compared to RIM Blackberry are also attracting users who are upgrading."


Entner added that the Android is as close to an iPhone as one can get. "If you don't want an iPhone or be with AT&T ( T), this is an experience that can be pretty comparable."

Still, of all smartphone owners, the Blackberry still has the dominant share with 31% of the market -- though its edge over Apple is declining, according to Nielsen data. Entner said Blackberry devices were really the "weapon of choice" to beat the iPhone until the Android appeared on the scene. "Now that baton has been handed over to the Android.

Nielsen research shows that 28% of smart phone owners have Apple iPhones, compared with 19% for Android devices. PCMag.com said in September, ChangeWave had also found that 37% of buyers are considering purchasing an Android device over the next six months, the highest rate the firm has ever recorded.

Morningstar's Tran says that Apple has been more prepared than Research In Motion for Google's advancements in the mobile space. "I think Apple always knew that Google would be" one its toughest competitors. "Apple was prepared for that." Tran can't say the same for Research In Motion. He said the company has "shown no competence in producing any device that captures consumers' imagination."

"RIM I think is much more in trouble. A little bit over half of RIM's revenue comes from the consumer market." Unless RIM begins building what the consumer really wants and platforms that developers want to create programs from, the company could face serious problems, Tran noted.

Artio investment manager Dedio also noted that "the rising developer community momentum for Android vs. RIM is also another key factor now."

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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