Apple iPhone 4S Helps Threaten Android’s U.S. Smartphone Lead [Report]



Apple is a tease – and that’s a good thing, according to new research figures. The late announcement of an iPhone 4S created such pent-up demand among consumers that the Cupertino, Calif. tech giant came within a breath of Android’s U.S. smartphone lead. A wave of sales during the third quarter of 2011 pushed Apple’s share of the U.S. smartphone market to 43 percent, just shy of Android’s 47 percent share.

A survey by consumer research firm NPD Group found during October and November, Apple surged from 26 percent of the domestic smartphone market while Google’s mobile operating system fell off a cliff — dropping from an earlier 60 percent. NPD had earlier proclaimed iOS and Android combined held an 82 percent lock of U.S. smartphone sales.

If the U.S. smartphone market is essentially a question of either iOS or Android, who makes up the single-digit also-rans? BlackBerry maker Research in Motion posted 6 percent of American smartphone sales, down from 8 percent. Windows Phone 7 U.S. smartphone sales were essentially flat-lined, according to NPD.

The survey also found smartphones continue to become increasingly common in the United States. Smartphones in the U.S. comprised 67 percent of all handsets sold during October and November, dominating 15 percent for basic phones.

Apple owns the top three best-selling U.S. smartphones. The iPhone 4S is in most demand, followed by the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS. Despite being older, the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS have sold well. When Apple announced the 4S, it also cut the price of the iPhone 4 to $99 and the iPhone 3GS virtually became free with a two-year AT&T contract.

As for other handsets, Samsung’s Galaxy S 4G was the fourth-most popular smartphone in the U.S., followed by the Samsung Galaxy S II. LG’s Revere took the last spot in the top 10 list – RIM did not even appear.

The NPD numbers are a bit deceptive because they do not include the all-important Christmas period. Google’s Andy Rubin claims 3.7 million Android devices were activated on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Fortune reported a minimum of 4.2 million iOS devices were activated on Dec. 25, potentially overtaking Android sales. The problem is both camps include smartphones and tablets in their activation figures.

However, another clue to the iPhone’s growing strength is a recent report showing 54 percent of people considering buying a smartphone expect to pick and iPhone in 2012. Those numbers surprised ChangeWave Research, which said the iPhone dominated smartphone — even two months after the iPhone 4S was unveiled.


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