Most US smartphone market share estimates last fall saw Apple retake the lead as it rode a wave of iPhone 5 sales. While there was always a question as to how long that trend would last, new data from Kantar Worldpanel supports beliefs that it was really more of a momentary pop. Android reportedly took back the lead at 49.4 percent of American sales between November and January, improving its overall position versus the same month last year. Not that everyone else was necessarily hurting -- iOS still had a 45.9 percent slice of the pie, and the continued Windows Phone 8 rollout took Microsoft up to 3.2 percent. The real wounds were dealt to a pre-transition BlackBerry and Nokia's outgoing Symbian.
We seldom get an explanation as to why such shifts take place, but the researchers suggest that a significant chunk of the January switch-up can be assigned to one carrier: Sprint. Its decision to cut the Galaxy S III's contract price to $99 supposedly helped Samsung's flagship climb from 14 percent of Sprint sales in October to 39 percent over the more recent 3-month span. The Galaxy S III didn't play as much of a role elsewhere, Kantar says. Sprint's average contract pricing for Android also dipped to $95 at the same time, helping Samsung alone get 60.3 percent of the network's business as customers snapped up bargains. Big Yellow only played a small part in the overall US market, as you'll see in the detailed charts after the break, but it may have been large enough to tip the balance in OS preferences at the start of 2013.