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Studies: Apple Tops In U.S. Smartphone, Cellphone Share In Q4

New York –Apple retained its lead in U.S. smartphone purchases by consumers in the fourth quarter and for the first time shipped more cellphones in the U.S. than any other vendor, two research studies show.

Although Apple’s share of unit smartphone purchases by consumers fell to 39 percent in the quarter compared with 41 percent in the year-ago quarter, the company remained ahead of number two Samsung, whose share nonetheless rose to 30 percent from a year-ago 21 percent, The NPD Group found in tracking purchases by consumes ages 18 and up.

Strategy Analytics said Apple for the first time became the top vendor in shipments of mobile phones, consisting of smartphones and basic phone. Apple captured a 34 percent unit share of shipments in the quarter, compared with Samsung’s 32.3 percent.

“Apple has become the No. 1mobile phone vendor by volume in the United States for the first time ever,” said Neil Mawston, executive director of Strategy Analytics. “Apple’s success had been driven by its popular ecosystem of iPhones and App Store, generous carrier subsidies, and extensive marketing around the new iPhone 5 model.”

Samsung has been the top mobile phone vendor in the U.S. since 2008, and although its share rose 5 percentage points in the fourth quarter from the year-ago quarter, “it was not enough to hold off a surging Apple,” he said.

For the full year, however, Samsung held top mobilephone share, with 31.8 percent of shipments compared with Apple’s 26.2 percent. (See table.)

Within the smartphone segment,

Apple retained its top fourth-quarter share even though Samsung gained share and Apple lost share among consumer buyers ages 18 and older, excluding enterprise purchases, NPD said.

Apple’s share slipped to 39 percent from the year-ago 41 percent, while Samsung share rose to 30 percent from 21 percent, NPD said. HTC also lost significant share, dropping to 6 percent in the quarter from a year-ago 14 percent.

 “Even taking into account the tremendous sales growth of the Galaxy S III and other Samsung smartphones, the iPhone is still king of the U.S.-market hill,” said Stephen Baker, industry analysis VP. “In addition to strong U.S. sales of iPhone 5, Apple has been bolstered by strong and continued demand for older, less-expensive iPhone models.”

The top five smartphone sellers in the fourth quarter, in order, were the iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S III, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy S II, NPD said.

In comparing third-quarter to fourth-quarter sales, NPD found that iPhone 4 sales grew 79 percent, and iPhone 4S sales grew 43 percent. Sales of the iPhone 5 accounted for 43 percent of all iPhone sales in the fourth quarter and accounted for almost two-thirds of all post-paid smartphone sales more than $199, NPD added.

As for total mobile phone purchases by consumers, those increased by 24 percent in the quarter compared with the year-ago quarter, NPD said. Sales of smartphones increased by 52 percent, but feature-phone sales declined 31 percent. Smartphones represented a record 81 percent of mobile phones sold compared with 66 percent in the year-ago quarter. Prepaid smartphone sales increased 139 percent over the previous year.

 “While smartphone sales continued on their torrid pace in the fourth quarter, the seeds of change are evident in the sales numbers,” Baker said. “With the vast majority of all phone sales now smartphones, and with the largest unit-sales growth within smartphones occurring in the prepaid segment, today’s product pricing and channel models will need to adapt to accommodate this new reality.”

In its report Strategy Analytics found U.S. mobile phone shipments grew 4 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with the year-ago quarter, to hit 52 million.

The fourth-quarter growth, however, followed a 16 percent decline in the first three quarters of 2012 because of economic uncertainty and stricter carrier-upgrade policies, the company said. For the full year, mobile phone shipments fell 11 percent from 186.8 million in 2011 to 166.9 million in 2012.