NPD: iPhone dominated in Q4, Android popularity grows among first-time buyers

Apple was the top smartphone vendor in the United States last quarter according to new data released on Monday. A new report from market research firm The NPD Group suggests that the three best-selling smartphones in America last quarter were all iPhones. Apple’s new iPhone 4S was deemed the top-selling smartphone this past holiday quarter, followed by the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS, which is now free on contract from AT&T. Two versions of Samsung’s Galaxy S II smartphone rounded out the top-5. Read on for more.

“Attracted by a faster processor, improved camera and the Siri speech-driven agent, most iPhone buyers paid a premium for the iPhone 4S, making it the top-selling handset in Q4,” NPD analyst Ross Rubin said in a statement. “The iPhone 4S outsold the iPhone 4 by 75 percent, and outsold the iPhone 3GS, available for free on AT&T, five to one.” Apple reported last month that it sold more than 37 million iPhones into channels last quarter.

While Apple was the top smartphone vendor in the U.S. last quarter, Android maintained its operating system share lead according to NPD’s data. 48% of smartphone buyers opted for an Android device during the holiday quarter, while 43% chose iOS. The discrepancy was even greater among first-time smartphone buyers — 57% chose an Android device compared to an estimated 34% who chose an iPhone.

“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.” The NPD Group’s full press release follows below.

The NPD Group: Apple Leads Mobile Handsets in Q4 2011, But Android Attracts More First-Time Smartphone Buyers

PORT WASHINGTON, NEW YORK, February 6, 2012 – According to The NPD Group, a leading market research company, Apple leaped past Samsung and LG to become the best-selling U.S. handset brand in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2011. In a quarter that featured the launch of the iPhone 4S and the addition of Sprint, Apple’s three available models combined to capture 43 percent of the U.S. smartphone market in Q4.

“Attracted by a faster processor, improved camera and the Siri speech-driven agent, most iPhone buyers paid a premium for the iPhone 4S, making it the top-selling handset in Q4,” said Ross Rubin, executive director, Connected Intelligence for The NPD Group. “The iPhone 4S outsold the iPhone 4 by 75 percent, and outsold the iPhone 3GS, available for free on AT&T, five to one.”

Together, Android and iPhone accounted for over 90 percent of smartphone sales, with Android holding on to 48 percent of the smartphone market during the quarter; however, Android devices performed better among first-time smartphone buyers.  Based on the latest data from The NPD Group’s monthly Smartphone Track service, among the first-time smartphone buyers in Q4, 57 percent purchased Android phones compared to just 34 percent who purchased iPhones.

“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 said. “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.”

The overall share of mobile phone sales that are smartphones continued to climb in Q4 2011, reaching 68 percent of the total mobile phone market, which is an increase of 18 percentage points since Q4 2010. Based on the latest data from NPD’s monthly Mobile Phone Track service, average selling prices for smartphones increased eight dollars over the prior quarter, reaching $143 in Q4 2011, which is still below average price of $149 in Q4 2010. Led by continued steady sales for Apple’s iPhones, the top five best-selling mobile phone handsets in Q4 were as follows:

1. Apple iPhone 4S

2. Apple iPhone 4

3. Apple iPhone 3GS

4. Samsung GALAXY S II

5. Samsung GALAXY S 4G

Information this press release is from Mobile Phone Track and Smartphone Track, both of which report on the activities of U.S. consumers, age 18 and older, who reported purchasing a mobile phone or smartphone. NPD does not track corporate/enterprise mobile phone purchases.

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