For the first time, Strategy Analytics has named Apple as the top seller of mobile phones in the U.S. for the fourth quarter. That status is also backed by a report from the NPD Group, which cites the company as tops in U.S. smartphones.
According to Strategy Analytics, the technology giant's market share increased to 34 percent in the fourth quarter from 26 percent in the previous quarter, moving the company past its key competitor for hardware, Samsung. Apple's sale of iPhones in the fourth quarter was up 38 percent from the same quarter in 2011, to 17.7 million.
The new ordering also showed Samsung nudging its market share from 31.8 percent to 32.3 percent. Samsung has held the top position in this market for four years, and it still is No. 1 for all of 2012, with a 31.8 percent share versus Apple's 26.2 percent. In 2011, Samsung's U.S. share was 27 percent.
The news boosts Apple's reputation at a time when industry observers have begun to wonder if the company could continue its streak of hit products as the smartphone and tablet markets get crowded.
Strategy Analytics' executive director, Neil Mawston, said in a statement that 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." Apple has also been offering discounted or free versions of the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 4.
The mobile phone market in the U.S. grew 4 percent in the fourth quarter. Strategy Analytics said the growth was driven by "robust demand among consumers" for 4G smartphones and 3G feature phones. However, sales fell overall for the year by 11 percent to nearly 167 million units, caused by a contraction of 16 percent for the first three quarters of the year attributed to economic uncertainty and tighter carrier upgrade policies.
NPD Group Report
LG continued to hold third place in the fourth quarter, having shipped 4.7 million phones for a 9 percent market share. In the coming year, Samsung is rumored to be readying a Galaxy S IV and Apple is expected to unveil a new or updated iPhone model in the summer.
The fourth-quarter report by the NPD Group similarly showed Apple in the lead, with 39 percent of the market compared with Samsung's 30 percent. Together, the two companies accounted for almost 70 percent of smartphone sales. NPD measures smartphones, while the Strategy Analytics' report included both smartphones and feature phones.
This is not the first time Apple was in first place in the NPD Group's report. In the fourth quarter of 2011, its market share was actually two points higher, at 41 percent, and Samsung's was lower, at 21 percent.
Stephen Baker, NPD Group's vice president of industry analysis, told news media that, "even taking into account the tremendous sales growth of the Galaxy III and other Samsung smartphones, the iPhone is still king of the U.S.-market hill."