Good news for Apple fans - according to a Nielsen survey of mobile customers in the U.S., Apple's iPhone has seen a sharp spurt in growth despite rival Android platform still being the most popular choice among smartphone users.

In May, Apple iPhones were the favorite choice of 17 percent of smartphone buyers, rising from 10 percent three months ago.

In comparison, Android, though still the market leader, stayed stagnant at 27 percent.

The survey found Google's Android platform was the favorite choice of 38 percent of smartphone users while iOS platform was the favorite of 27 percent of smartphone users.

Research in Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry sales fell to 6 percent from 11 percent in the previous survey but still controls 21 percent market share.

Windows Mobile trailed a distant fourth with 9 percent market share, followed by webOS and Symbian (each 2 percent), and Windows Phone 7 and Palm OS (each 1 percent).

Nielsen's survey results are not surprising as recently Google boasted that half a million Android devices are activated everyday.

The surge in iPhone's popularity on sequential basis can probably be attributed to iPhone 4's launch on Verizon network in early February.

The survey also threw up another interesting result - 55 percent of new phone buyers preferred a smartphone to a feature phone in May 2011.

A year back, 34 percent preferred a smartphone and 66 percent chose a feature phone as their next handset.

People are opting more of smartphones as they offer better user experience and are competitively priced these days compared to feature phones.

Nielsen's survey bodes well for Apple, which is expected to release the next generation iPhone, dubbed iPhone 5, this September.

According to the swirling waves of rumors, iPhone 5 is expected to boast of the following features:

> A5 processor in the range of 1.2-1.5 GHz
> Aluminum metal backing of the original iPhone instead of the current glass surface back piece
> A teardrop design, like the new iPod Touch, with the top being thick and then tapering to a skinnier bottom
> An improved antenna (no more Antennagate, yay!)
> More RAM, possibly 1GB
> Better camera (perhaps 8-megapixel) with 1080p video playback and panaromic photo capture capability and an improved dual-LED flash unit
> Bigger-edge-to-edge 3.7- to 4-inch curved glass screen (iPhone 4 has 3.5-inch screen)
> A SIM-less design
> 3-4 internal antennas for both GSM and CDMA networks
> 4G connectivity
> iOS 5, which will be true multitask capable and come with loads of new features such as News Stand, Reminders, Delta Updates and iMessage
> Improved speech recognition features, and
> Wireless charging capability
> Better talktime and standy time
> Near Field Communication (NFC) technology
> Panoramic photo capabilities and 1080p Full HD videos
> Stronger gaming capabilities supported by multi-core A5 processor and Imagination Technologies' PowerVR Series6 mobile graphics processing architecture

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