Wall Street Journal: It looks like Steve Jobs may have something to be nervous about after all.

OB-KR300_androi_D_20101101153036Google Inc.’s Android platform has taken the lead in the U.S. smartphone market, according to several new reports by technology research firms.

In the third quarter, devices with the Android operating system were installed in 44% of smartphones, while Apple Inc.’s iPhone came in second place with 23%, according to market research firm, NPD Group. RIM’s BlackBerry trailed behind in third place with 22%. One big caveat: NPD tracks consumer activity, but doesn’t measure corporate cellphone purchases.

“[Android] has a very strong story to tell in terms of lack of licensing fees, high degree of customization and a significant advantage in terms of an app market,” said Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis for NPD Group.

Tech research firm Canalys said that the smartphone market has exploded this year, growing 95% in the third quarter from a year earlier. In the U.S., Apple was able to muscle past RIM, shipping 5.5 million smartphones in the third quarter, compared with 5.1 million for RIM. But because Android does not charge for its software and is available on a range of devices, it catapulted to the top spot with 9.1 million shipments in the third quarter.

Mr. Jobs blasted the Android platform during the company’s quarterly conference call last MONTH, saying app developers are turned off by having to create multiple versions of the software for the numerous devices that run on Android. The company’s iPhone sold 14.1 million units, 91% more than a year ago. The line of smartphones had an average selling price of $610, which includes subsidies paid by wireless carriers, Apple said.

But it may be that RIM has the most to worry about. RIM’s share of the operating system market declined by 53% from a year earlier, NPD said. Apple’s iOS took a 21% hit.