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iOS Squeaks Past Android In U.S.

Strong iPhone 5 sales helped Apple's iOS platform eke out a lead over Google's Android platform in U.S. market share.
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The iPhone 5 helped vault Apple's iOS smartphone platform ahead of Google's Android platform, says analyst firm Kantar WorldPanel. It estimates that Apple's iOS surpassed adoption of Google's Android in the 12-week period ending October 28 thanks to strong sales of the iPhone 5.

Kantar's numbers show that iOS grabbed 48.1% of U.S. smartphone market compared to Android, which held onto 46.7%.

"The last time we saw iOS overtake Android in the U.S. was when the iPhone 4S was released and Apple managed to retain its lead for three consecutive periods," said Kantar WorldPanel's Dominic Sunnebo. "This time we predict that Apple will beat its previous high of 49.3% and achieve its highest ever share of the U.S. smartphone market within the next two periods."

[ Apple may have the edge in the U.S. for now, but Google still owns the smartphone market worldwide. Is that a bad thing? Read Why Android's Dominance Is Bad. ]

If we look at actual device sales, Samsung's Galaxy S III became the top-selling smartphone in the U.S. between July and September. It surpassed the iPhone 4S, which had previously held the top spot. The iPhone 5 went on sale September 21 and has been at the top of the device leader board since. Apple sold more than 4 million iPhone 5s during the first few days the device was available.

Kantar believes that Apple's iPhone 5 will continue to sell well in the U.S. for the next half year or so. Can Apple really maintain a sales lead over Google, though? Kantar doesn't really say.

Apple may have reclaimed the smartphone platform lead in the U.S., but worldwide Android is still king. For example, Android accounted for 73.9% of smartphone sales in Germany and 81.7% in Spain during the same 12-week period.

A key reason for Apple's success in the States is the loyalty factor. Of those purchasing the iPhone 5, 62% were existing Apple device owners.

"Apple has always managed to maintain loyalty levels far above the competition, and this has clearly played a part in driving sales of its new device," said Sunnebo. "An impressive 92% of existing Apple owners in the U.S. said they will choose an iPhone the next time they upgrade. While loyalty is clearly key, it is also important to make sure that new customers are attracted to your brand. With roughly 60% of U.S. iPhone 5 sales coming from existing customers and 40% from new consumers, Apple is achieving this at the moment -- a clear sign of the strength of the brand in the U.S. marketplace."

Android has choice going for it, though. A huge number of Android superphones have hit the market since the iPhone 5's debut, including the LG Nexus 4, HTC Droid DNA, Samsung Galaxy Note II, and the Motorola Droid RAZR / RAZR MAXX. Apple's smartphone competitors have been quick to offer cutting-edge hardware with the latest version of Android at low prices.

Historically, Apple has updated its smartphone hardware once per year, while a dozen new Android devices hit the market every month. If Google's OEM partners get really aggressive about offering iPhone-besting features, such as 1080p HD displays, smartphone adoption could easily swing back to Google's favor.

InformationWeek is conducting a survey on the state of Apple in the enterprise: How has the flood of iOS devices affected use and support of Apple systems? If you're not supporting Apple gear, what's holding you back? Take our InformationWeek Apple Outlook Survey now. Survey ends Nov. 26.

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