LONDON — Apple’s fourth-quarter share of smartphone sales exceeded Android-phone sales in the U.S. in for the first time in any quarter since the fourth quarter of 2012, although barely, a Kantar Worldpanel ComTech survey of consumers found.
Apple’s share rose 3.8 percentage points from the year-ago quarter, to 47.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, while Android’s share slipped 3.8 percentage points to 47.6 percent.
Windows share slipped to 3.8 percent from the year-ago 4.2 percent, and other OSs came in with a 0.8 percent share, down 0.3 percentage points.
In the fourth quarter of 2012, Apple’s share of 49.7 percent exceed Android’s share of 46.2 percent. Apple’s share fell below Android’s share in the previous three quarters of 2012. Statistics before 2012 were unavailable.
“While the success of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is unprecedented, this quarter’s performance also points to Apple having its strongest portfolio ever,” said research chief Carolina Milanesi. “With a range of devices available at different price points in both contract and pre-pay, Apple was able to take advantage of a weaker Android offering at the premium end of the market.”
For the quarter, the iPhone 6 was the best-selling smartphone in the U.S. and the most popular smartphone to give as a gift, Kantar said. Samsung’s Galaxy S5 was the second best-selling smartphone in the quarter.
With smartphone penetration at 59 percent in the U.S. and 67 percent across Europe’s top five economies, “the opportunity to attract first-time smartphone buyers in developed economies diminishes,” Milanesi noted. In those countries, therefore, “retaining loyal customers is becoming as important as winning them over from competing platforms.”
She concluded: “Apple’s average customer loyalty of 87 percent across the U.S. and Europe certainly looks promising.” Although Samsung “might be feeling some pressure, its brand loyalty remains by far the strongest within the Android ecosystem, with an average of 62 percent across the U.S. and big European markets,” she said.
In the five largest European economies (Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain), Apple’s share rose 6.2 percentage points in the quarter to 24.1 percent compared with the year-ago quarter, while Android share fell 3.8 percentage points to 66.1 percent, and Windows share fell 1 percentage point to 8.9 percent.