Developers with Android skills are now in greater demand than those with iPhone expertise, according to a recent report.

Specifically, as of March 1, there were 987 open positions requesting Android skills listed on job board Dice.com, compared with 970 jobs seeking iPhone expertise, Bloomberg Businessweek reported on Thursday.

Though searches for the iPad, iPod Touch and iOS are not included in that monthly count, the divergence nevertheless marks the first time demand for Android skills has outpaced that for iPhone experience, according to the report.

The results run counter to an October Dice survey of 283 recruiters, for example, in which 72 percent said they were hiring iPhone app developers while only 60 percent were seeking developers on the Android side.

In all, the number of job listings mentioning either platform has reportedly skyrocketed by more than threefold since this time last year, when only 273 Android and 312 iPhone-related jobs were listed.

"Any place that's going to hire developers of apps has to have Android as well as iPhone," Alice Hill, managing director of Dice, told Bloomberg Businessweek. "It's just as important, and it's something they have to support."

'Big opportunity for developers'

As if on cue, payment platform PayPal on Thursday threw its weight behind Android by focusing its newly launched third PayPal X developer challenge on Google's mobile platform.

"The huge growth that Google's Android platform has experienced during the past year creates a big opportunity for developers," wrote PayPal developer Naveed Anwar. "We see it every day with the submissions using our platform. That's why we decided to put our money where our mouth is and make the theme to our next challenge Android mobile apps."

With prizes totalling $50,000, PayPal seeks Android mobile apps that leverage PayPal's technologies for mobile payments.

Most likely to succeed

Android on Thursday was also named the most popular smartphone platform in the United States by Nielsen, which reported that Android is now the preferred choice of 29 percent of US smartphone users, compared with just 27 percent each for Research In Motion's Blackberry and Apple's iPhone.

Then, too, there's the data from late last month indicating that more consumers plan to buy an Android phone than an iPhone, and that the Android Market is on track to surpass the App Store in volume by mid-2012. Developers have also been found to increasingly prefer working Android.