Editor's note: Amy Gahran writes about mobile tech for CNN.com. She is a San Francisco Bay Area writer and media consultant whose blog, Contentious.com, explores how people communicate in the online age.
(CNN) -- Is Android "the new black"? New research from Nielsen indicates that consumer tastes in smartphones may be as variable as fashion trends.
Way back in the summer of 2010 -- ages ago in mobile-phone technology time -- a third of U.S. consumers who were planning to purchase a new smartphone reported a preference for the Apple iPhone.
About one fourth planned to get an Android phone, and 13% planned to get a BlackBerry.
Today, Nielsen reports: "Those same surveys for January-March 2011 show just how much things have changed: According to the latest figures, 31% of consumers who plan to get a new smartphone indicated Android was now their preferred OS. Apple's iOS has slipped slightly in popularity to 30%, and RIM Blackberry is down to 11%."
Perhaps even more telling: "Almost 20% of consumers are unsure of [which smartphone] to choose next."
This variability makes one thing clear: It's difficult to predict with any level of certainty which mobile devices will be popular in the future.
So whenever you hear predictions such as International Data Corp's recent forecast that by 2015, Windows Phone 7 will be the #2 smartphone platform worldwide, take it with a huge grain of salt.
Because of this variability, it's likely that companies which develop mobile services and content will increasingly deliver their offerings via a mobile web browser, rather than via "native" mobile apps designed to run on a specific mobile platform.
Developing several versions of a native app is a big, costly software development and maintenance effort.
Browser-based experiences are inherently cross-platform. While such mobile "web apps" cannot deliver the full range of features as native apps, often they are good enough to get the job done for most mobile users, while substantially improving the economics of those offerings.
The opinions expressed in this post are solely those of Amy Gahran.