Google’s Android OS accounts for half of the smartphones in the world...or does it? And even if it does, is this as meaningful as it sounds?

According to Canalys, a market research firm, Android is currently enjoying its best quarter ever, with a 48 percent worldwide market share as of Q2 2011. This has led a number of mid-week headlines about Android’s 50% dominance, as well as the predictable retorts -- mainly touting Apple.

The US-specific metrics show a lesser but still commanding lead for Google’s mobile operating system. According to Nielsen, Android’s share is strong at 39 percent, with Apple’s iOS at 28 percent and BlackBerry maker RIM falling fast at 20 percent. ComScore’s numbers are similar (40 percent for Android, 26 percent for iOS, and 23 percent for RIM).

There is no doubt that Android has had a stellar year, taking the market share lead (from Symbian worldwide, and from RIM in the US) at the close of 2010 and finishing the second quarter of this year with a staggering 379 percent more smartphones shipped (for a total of 51.9 million). Google can count on its OS being featured on devices from Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, ZTE and Huawei.

On the other hand, all of those companies put together (plus RIM) take home around only a third of the smartphone profits. According to industry analysis firm Asymco, Apple gets two-thirds of the profit pie, and that percentage has only increased while Android’s market share soared.

The Apple proponents rightly point out that an operating system is not a smartphone. Apple makes and sells devices better than any other company, and in this realm also gained the top spot in the past year -- beating Nokia, the company that had led smartphone sales for years.

Google makes relatively little money from its Android sales. In fact, it has been pointed out that licensing deals may have resulted in Microsoft making more money from Android phones -- more money than Google, and more money than Microsoft makes with their own Windows Phone OS (whose market share has yet to emerge from single digit territory).

James Lee Phillips is a Senior Writer & Research Analyst for IBG.com. With offices in Dallas, Las Vegas, and New York, & London, IBG is quickly becoming the leading expert in Internet Marketing, Local Search, SEO, Website Development and Reputation Management. More information can be found at www.ibg.com. Daniel Frishberg is The Money Man! He is an expert on investing, online stock trading worldwide and specializes in diversified portfolios.