Once an underdog to Research in Motion's Blackberry behemoth, Google's Android smartphone operating system is surging in popularity among Canadians, a new survey suggests.

A growing number of Canadians are opting for Android-based devices when shopping for smartphones, according to data collected by Ipsos Reid. The polling firm conducted four studies using online surveys, between January 2011 and August 2012.

During that period, the number of Canadian smartphone users who own Android-based devices grew from 26 per cent to 36 per cent, a leap of 10 percentage points. 

The number of smartphone users who opted for Apple's iPhones, meanwhile, crept up from 23 per cent to 29 per cent.

'Google has massaged the software to the point where you can easily put an Android-powered device up to an iPhone.'—Tech analyst Carmi Levy

RIM, once the market leader of smartphones in this country, suffered significant losses, with Blackberry's share of users falling 14 percentage points from 41 per cent to 27 per cent.

"In terms of smartphones, the big story… is the success of devices using an Android operating system," said Mary Beth Barbour, a senior vice-president at Ipsos Reid.

"While Apple’s iPhone continues to make steady gains, smartphones using the Android OS have been living up to the buzz making the most ground in the wake of RIM’s losses."

One of the reasons for Android's rising popularity is the variety of devices on the market, says independent tech analyst Carmi Levy.  

More offerings with Android

Android's open-source operating system is used by several smartphone manufacturers, including Samsung, Motorola and LG. Apple's iOS platform, on the other hand, is only available on devices produced by the company.

"You have a range of choice in the Android market simply because there are so many vendors selling so many different models at so many different price points, which is unique in the industry," Levy said. "You can buy a flagship model like the Galaxy S3… or you can get a lower-end model, like one of the Motorola droids."

Samsung's line of Android-powered smartphones, which includes the Galaxy S3, has doubled to an 18 per cent share since January 2011, according to Ipsos Reid's findings.

While Apple's iOS is often praised for its design and usability, Levy says the Android platform has matured significantly since it was first released four years ago, which has helped bolster its popularity.

"Google has massaged the software to the point where you can easily put an Android-powered device up to an iPhone or an iPad… and it is every bit as slick to Apple's offering," Levy said.

Despite Android's significant gains in the smartphone market, Apple is still the clear leader when it comes to tablets. Of the tablet owners who were surveyed by Ipsos Reid, 42 per cent had opted for Apple's iPad. Its closest competitor was Blackberry's Playbook, with a 19 per cent share of the market.

Levy says that tablet manufacturers have yet to release a compelling Android-based alternative to the iPad. "There is no iPad killer in the tablet market just yet," Levy said, but added that it's only a matter of time before one appears.

"If you were waiting for a titanic battle in the mobile industry, you now have it," Levy said. "It's very clear that Apple and Google are engaged in a fight to the death."