Google Inc displaced iPhone maker Apple Inc to become the second most popular provider of smartphone software in the United States during the first quarter, the latest sign of the increasing competition in the fast-growing mobile market.

But Google's success in becoming a leading mobile software player was tempered by the news on Monday that Google lost a key partner in a related effort to redefine the cell phone industry by selling phones directly to consumers through its website. A Sprint representative said on Monday the company would no longer support the Nexus One, the sleek touchscreen smartphone developed by Google and HTC and sold directly on the Google website.

Apple has sold more than 51 million iPhones since it launched the device to wide acclaim in 2007 and the company says more than 200,000 apps are available for the phone. In the first quarter, Apple's iPhone, which is available exclusively on the AT&T wireless network in the United States. Unlike Apple, Google offers its Android software to other phone-makers.

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