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Samsung’s Android vs. Apple’s iPhone

The sharp rise of one of Apple's frenemies triggers a fierce debate about what it means

Some of the most intelligent conversations on the Internet these days are to be found in the comment stream of Horace Dediu's Asymco blog. Not only does Dediu produce striking charts and graphs from his analysis of the mobile phone market, but he carefully moderates the subsequent discussion, pruning repetitive comments and chasing out the trolls.

Case in point: The debate triggered by the smartphone shipment graphic above, which Dediu posted Sunday. The chart's most striking feature is the contrast between the decline of Nokia (nok) and Research in Motion's (rimm) and the steep rise of Apple (aapl), HTC and, most strikingly of all, Samsung.

The lesson Dediu drew from this was that the days are over when the smartphone boom was a tide that lifted all ships. In the newly competitive market in which Apple's iOS battles it out with Google's (goog) Android and soon, perhaps, with Microsoft's (msft) Windows Phone 7, some smartphone ships are sinking while others are rising rapidly to the top.

The subsequent discussion, however, drilled even deeper into the data. How long, some commentators asked, can Android's market share keep growing at its breakneck pace? Why is the Android strategy working so well for Samsung -- a key Apple suppliers whose smartphone sales grew 520% year over year, according to Dediu, and which is now locked in a bitter patent war with Cupertino -- and not for, say, Motorola (mot)? And what does this shifting dynamic mean for Steve Jobs and Apple?

To follow the debate, click here. You're welcome to join in, but be forewarned: If you don't bring something intelligent to the party, Dediu is liable to throw you out.

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