Kantar: Android back on top of US smartphone share in January with Sprint's help

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.

Kantar Android back on top of US Smartphone share with Sprint's help

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Android Regains Lead Among U.S. Smartphone OS Sales

Price reductions for flagship models contribute to Android's performance, says Kantar Worldpanel ComTech

New York, February 25–Android regained the top spot as the best selling smartphone platform in the 3 months ending January 2013, according to data released today by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. With 49.4% of smartphone sales, Android realized 6.4% growth compared to the same period last year.

iOS was second during the period with 45.9% of smartphone sales, down 4.7% versus last year. Windows continues to make gains, up to 3.2% of smartphone sales.
Top carrier rankings have also shifted with Verizon regaining its top spot with 35.2% smartphones sold in the 3 months ending January 2013. AT&T falls to second with 28.2% of smartphone sales. Sprint maintains third position with 14.2% share.

The data is derived from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech USA's consumer panel, which is the largest continuous consumer research mobile phone panel of its kind in the world, conducting more than 240,000 interviews per year in the U.S. alone. ComTech tracks mobile phone behavior and the customer journey, including purchasing of phones, mobile phone bills/airtime, and source of purchase and phone usage. This data is exclusively focused on the sales within this 3 month period rather than market share figures. Sales shares exemplify more forward focused trends and should represent the market share for these brands in future.

Kantar Worldpanel ComTech analyst Mary-Ann Parlato states, "Part of Android's increase in the latest period can be attributed to its large gain in share within Sprint's smartphone sales. In the three month period ending October 2012, sales on Sprint were divided almost 50/50 between Android and iOS. However, in the latest period, Android's share of Sprint sales increased by 22.6% points from 49.3% to 71.9%."

Average prices paid for Android smartphones on Sprint have also declined over the latest period.

"The 50/50 split we saw in the period ending October 2012 was a result of both iOS and Android sharing similar levels of average price paid (iOS at $130 and Android at $127).Yet this latest period saw a significant price drop to $95 for Android, while iOS increased slightly to $146," continues Parlato.

One particular phone that led to Android's gains at Sprint was the Samsung Galaxy SIII, Samsung's flagship model launched in mid-2012. While this model only captured 14% of smartphones sold at Sprint in the October period, a price drop from $199 to $99 over the holiday season led to the SIII gaining 39% of smartphone sales on Sprint. On T-Mobile, the only other major carrier where Android consistently is the top selling platform, the SIII represented just 18% of smartphone sales in the latest period.

Samsung smartphones represented 60.3% of smartphones sold on Sprint in the January period. Unfortunately for Sprint, the gains made by Android and Samsung did not translate into a large sales growth for Sprint, gaining only 0.8% year on year.