NPD: iPhones recover market share in Q4 2011, but Android draws the first-timer crowds
According to the latest research from the NPD group, Apple has got its second wind in smartphone sales. In the same quarter that saw the iPhone 4S reinvent the wheel obey our every vocal whim, the trio of available models soaked up a total of 43 percent of the US smartphone market in Q4 2012, apparently gnawing away at Android's market share of 53 percent held during the rest of 2011. However, Google's mobile OS appears to be the debutante smartphone of choice, cornering 57 percent of new purchases, with 34 percent going for Apple. The remaining 9 percent is distributed between the smartphone also-rans, with the likes of Windows Phone and BlackBerry languishing in that anonymous grey bar at the top. The top five handsets from NPD's Mobile Phone Track service is an Apple and Samsung love-in, with iOS devices claiming the three top spots, followed by the Samsung Galaxy S II (we assume collectively) and the Galaxy S 4G. NPD's blow-by-blow commentary on this increasingly two-horse race awaits below.
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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:

Apple iPhone 4S
Apple iPhone 4
Apple iPhone 3GS
Samsung GALAXY S II
Samsung GALAXY S 4G

Information in 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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NPD: iPhones recover market share in Q4 2011, but Android draws the first-timer crowds