Apple iPhone 4S sales cut into Android market share: Nielsen

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The Apple iPhone 4S is a hit, if the new numbers from market research firm Nielsen are any indication. During the final three months of 2011, 44.5 percent of respondents purchased an iPhone 4S. That’s up from just 25.1 percent who went with an iPhone in October. This boost in sales helped Apple steal market share from the still-dominant Android during the fourth quarter of 2011.

Android sales, as of October, were at about 61.6 percent of all new smartphone customers. With the release of the iPhone 4S in mid-October, Android sales fell markedly to just 48.7 percent by November, with total iPhone sales at nearly 39 percent. By December, the two camps were almost equal, with 46.9 percent of new buyers going with Android, and 44.5 percent going with Apple’s handsets.

Despite the iPhone’s gains, Android still remains the most-popular operating system. Out of all smartphone users, an average of 46.3 percent own an Android-based device, while 30 percent own an iPhone.

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The good news for both Android and Apple is that more and more people appear to be jumping on the smartphone bandwagon. In the fourth quarter of 2011, an average of 46 percent of mobile customers owned a smartphone. Among recent mobile customers, however, 60 percent went with a smartphone instead of a feature phone.

The biggest loser in this trend is, not surprisingly, Research In Motion. RIM’s BlackBerry devices became even less popular in the past three months, falling from 7.7 percent in October to just 4.5 percent in December. That said, RIM still holds onto an average of about 6 percent of the smartphone market — more than all other remaining OS devices’ combined.

It will be interesting to see whether the iPhone 4S’ upward swing will continue during the coming months. Given that iPhone sales jumped directly following the release of a new iPhone, which only happens once a year, it’s really no surprise that people waited until then to jump into the smartphone ring. If the iPhone does continue to steal market share from Android, then something is seriously wrong with the companies’ Android marketing initiatives, given the fact that most new Android devices have better hardware specs, most notably the ability to connect to much faster 4G LTE networks. It seems likely that the sheer number of different Android devices on the market is also playing a significant role in new buyers’ reasons for going with an iPhone. That is to say, from Apple, there is only one new phone to choose from. With Android, the number of choices is staggering.

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