Strategy Analytics: Apple tops US phone market for Q4 2012, but Samsung takes the year

Strategy Analytics have shared the state of the global smartphone OS market, but today it's focused specifically on the US, where the iPhone 5 helped Apple to reclaim the last quarter from Samsung. iPhone claimed 34 percent of vendor shipments in the last quarter, while Samsung's smartphone range wasn't far behind with 32.3 percent. Apple's resurgence with its new smartphone couldn't catch up with Samsung's lead earlier in the year, however, with the Korean phone-maker commanding a 31.8 percent share of all smartphones shipped over the last 12 months. Apple was next with 26.2 percent, while LG came third with 12.3 percent of all phones sold.

The analytics firm reckons that 52 million devices were shipped in Q4, increasing just short of 2 million units since the same period last year. However, it also noted that annual sales in the US were actually less than in 2012 than in the preceding year, dropping just under 20 million units in the interim. Strategy Analytics pointed the finger at economic uncertainty and tougher carrier upgrade policies for the drop in shipments.

Strategy Analytics Apple tops US phone market for Q4 2012, but Samsung takes the year

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Apple Becomes Largest Mobile Phone Vendor in United States in Q4 2012

According to our Wireless Device Strategies (WDS) service, mobile phone shipments grew 4 percent annually to reach 52 million units in the United States during the fourth quarter of 2012. Apple became the number one mobile phone vendor for the first time ever, capturing a record 34 percent market share.

Mobile phone shipments grew 4 percent annually from 50.2 million units in Q4 2011 to 52.0 million in the United States in Q4 2012. The growth was driven by robust demand among consumers for 4G smartphones and 3G feature phones. However, despite a solid fourth-quarter performance, the US mobile phone market had previously contracted 16 percent for the first three quarters of 2012 due to economic uncertainty and tighter carrier upgrade policies. As a result, US mobile phone shipments fell 11 percent from 186.8 million units in 2011 to 166.9 million in 2012.

We estimate Apple shipped 17.7 million mobile phones for a record 34 percent share of the United States market in the fourth quarter of 2012. This was up sharply from 12.8 million units shipped and 25 percent share in Q4 2011. Apple has become the number one mobile phone vendor by volume in the United States for the first time ever. Apple's success has been driven by its popular ecosystem of iPhones and App Store, generous carrier subsidies, and extensive marketing around the new iPhone 5 model. Samsung shipped 16.8 million mobile phones in the United States, for 32 percent share, during Q4 2012. This was a good performance from Samsung, as its market share rose 5 points from 27 percent a year earlier, but it was not enough to hold off a surging Apple. Samsung had been the number one mobile phone vendor in the US since 2008, and it will surely be keen to recapture that title in 2013 by launching improved new models such as the rumored Galaxy S4.

LG remains the third largest player in the US mobile phone market. We estimate LG shipped 4.7 million mobile phones for 9 percent share of the United States market in Q4 2012, dipping from 6.9 million units and 14 percent share a year earlier. LG struggled to compete with an Apple and Samsung onslaught in the high-growth smartphone sub-category last year, but LG will be aiming to fight back this year with new and improved models like the Optimus G 4G LTE with Android.