Who is winning the U.S. smart phone battle? That depends on whether you’re looking at operating systems or manufacturers, according to a new report by Nielsen. The company looked at consumer preferences from November 2010 through January of this year.

If you own a smart phone, it’s almost a guarantee it contains an operating system from Apple, Google Android, or RIM BlackBerry. Together the three powerhouses account for 83 percent of the market.

The breakdown is as follows: Android, 29 percent; Apple iOS, 27 percent; and RIM BlackBerry, 27 percent.

Microsoft’s Windows Mobile (10 percent) and HP/Palm WebOS (4 percent) are far behind.

In terms of hardware, Apple and RIM are the leaders, which shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, they are the only manufacturers creating and selling smart phones with their respective operating systems.

The top three hardware providers are: Apple, 27 percent; BlackBerry, 27 percent; and HTC, 19 percent.

Finally, Nielsen reports Android users are slightly younger than other smart phone owners. Of these customers, 69 percent are below the age of 44.

This compares to 67 percent for Apple, and 63 percent for RIM.

Note: Nielsen interviewed 14,701 postpaid mobile subscribers to complete their survey.