By Aldo Panessidi
Android. Apple. Apple. Android. The mobile OS brands and their respective handset manufacturers are in the grip of a fierce, cyclical competition to be the best and win global mindshare. Which is why we follow the momentum and progress of their sales and innovation so closely. So how did the vendors stack up against one another? The usual culprits are present: Apple’s iPhone 4S and Samsung’s Galaxy S 2.
For the three-month average period ending in December, 234 million Americans age 13 and older used mobile devices. Device manufacturer Samsung ranked as the top OEM with 25.3 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers, followed by LG Mobile with 20 percent share and Motorola with 13.3 percent share. Apple continued to gain ground in the OEM market with 12.4 percent share of total mobile subscribers (up 2.2 percentage points), while RIM rounded out the top five with 6.7 percent share.
97.9 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones during the three months ending in December, representing 40 percent of all mobile subscribers. Google Android ranked as the top smartphone platform with 47.3 percent market share, up 2.5 percentage points from September. Apple maintained its #2 position, growing 2.2 percentage points to 29.6 percent of the smartphone market. RIM ranked third with 16 percent share, followed by Microsoft (4.7 percent) and Symbian (1.4 percent).
According to the another market research firm, The NPD Group, the top three best-selling smartphones in the United States of last quarter all came from Apple: the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 4, and the iPhone 3GS (which consumers can receive at no cost when signing a contract at AT&T). Two of Samsung’s flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S II made the top 5 list as well. The availability of some of these handsets as unlocked devices likely contributed to their success as well.
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When diving into the details of this buying behavior, NPD analyst, Ross Rubin, noted that customers are motivated by “a fast processor, improved camera and the Siri speech-driven agent, most iPhone buyers paid a premium for the iPhone 4S, making is the top-selling handset in Q4.” In fact, the latest iPhone 4S outsold its predecessor by a whopping 75% and lapped the iPhone 3GS by a ratio of five to one. Throw in an OS that ties in the number one selling tablets in the world and customer get hooked.
When looking at the mobile OS platform of choice amongst first-time smartphone buyers, Android won out with 57% - Apple only saw 34% of those first time buyers choose their solution.
Much as there are solid tech reasons for Apple’s great performance with the iPhone 4S, NPD’s Rubin also outlines the rationale of Android’s growth and popularity amongst first-time buyers. “Android has been criticized for offering a more complex user experience than its competitors, but the company’s wide carrier support and large app selection is appealing to new smartphone customers,” Rubin noted. “Android’s support of LTE at Verizon has also made it the exclusive choice for customers who want to take advantage of that carrier’s fastest network.”