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6/30/2011
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Smartphones Outsell Feature Phones For First Time

From March to May, 55% of people who purchased new mobile phones in the U.S. bought a smartphone, according to Nielsen.

Slideshow: Verizon iPhone 4 Teardown
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Verizon iPhone 4 Teardown
Android and iOS have helped propel smartphones from the corner office to the four corners of the Earth in just a few short years. What used to be executive playthings are now being adopted by the mass market. Nielsen has new figures to show just how far things have come.

According to a recent survey conducted between March and May of this year, Nielsen discovered that 55% of people who purchased new phones in the U.S. bought a smartphone rather than a feature phone. In other words, the majority of new devices sold were smartphones. That's a notable reversal of fortune for the lowly feature phone, which used to be the bread-and-butter device for everyone.

In the same period last year, Nielsen reported that 34% of all mobile phones purchased were smartphones. That represents about a 40% growth rate year-over-year.

Smartphones now account for 38% of all devices in the U.S., with feature phones taking up the remaining 62%. This number has climbed from the single digits in about five years. Nielsen doesn't speculate on how long it will take for the number of smartphones to outweigh that of feature phones across the entire market.

Of note, Android remains the most popular smartphone platform in terms of raw adoption. Nielsen says 38% of new smartphone buyers reported owning an Android-based device. Android's growth rate is phenomenal. It jumped from 400,000 handsets activated each day in May to 500,000 handsets activated each day this week. Just 18 months ago, only 60,000 Android handsets were being activated each day.

Surprisingly, Nielsen says that the Apple iPhone has shown the most growth in the last few months, and it grabs 27% of the U.S. smartphone market. There are several reasons behind this.

First, Apple made the iPhone 4 available to Verizon Wireless in early February. That opened up a whole new market segment in the U.S. for Apple's smartphone. Second, Apple made the iPhone available in white. The new color option may not seem like a big deal, but there was obviously demand. In its most recently quarterly report, Apple reported selling 18.65 million iPhones. It is activating about 210,000 new handsets per day.

Other platforms fall into line as you'd expect. RIM's BlackBerry platform holds 21% of the U.S. smartphone market, Windows Mobile 5.x/6/x holds 9%, webOS and Symbian each hold 2%, and Windows Phone 7 and Palm OS each hold 1%.

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