Kantar: Android smartphone sales surge after Samsung slashes prices

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Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android mobile operating system led U.S. smartphone sales during the three-month period ending in February 2013, buoyed by gains made by partners Samsung Electronics and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech reports.

Android powers 51.2 percent of all smartphones sold in the U.S. during the three months in question, up from 45.4 percent during the same timeframe a year earlier. Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS follows at 43.5 percent, down from 47 percent a year ago. Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone grew from 2.7 percent market share to 4.1 percent, and BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) plummeted from 3.6 percent to just 0.7 percent. (BlackBerry unveiled its overhauled BlackBerry 10 operating system in late January; the Z10, its first smartphone running the new OS, did not go on sale to American subscribers until late last month.)

Kantar credits Android's growth in part to price cuts made by Samsung in late 2012, stating the manufacturer's move prompted a chunk of smartphone and feature phone owners to upgrade their devices. "Of those who changed their phone over the last year to a Samsung smartphone, 19 percent had previously owned a Samsung feature phone, 15 percent owned a HTC smartphone, 14 percent owned an LG feature phone, 10 percent owned a Samsung smartphone and 9 percent owned a BlackBerry," Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Analyst Mary-Ann Parlato said. "It's apparent that Samsung is successful at capturing users from across the competitor set and not just gaining from their own loyalists."

Kantar also notes that Sprint enjoyed a significant increase in smartphone sales between December and February, translating to an additional boost for the Android platform. Sprint accounted for 15 percent of all smartphones sold in the U.S. during the three-month period, up from 12.9 percent a year ago; Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) remains in the overall smartphone sales lead at 35 percent, down from 36.1 percent, trailed by AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) at 26.7 percent, dropping from 30.4 percent in the year-earlier period. T-Mobile USA increased from 9.3 percent to 9.8 percent, and smaller, regional operators accounted from the remaining 13.5 percent, up from 11.3 percent a year ago.

"Last month we saw that Android's increases were thanks to a large increase in Samsung sales within Sprint," Parlato stated. "This month, while the increases for Samsung are less pronounced, we're still seeing an increase in uptake of the brand, which is now impacting on Sprint's overall share in smartphone sales."

Kantar Worldpanel ComTech conducts more than 240,000 consumer interviews per year in the U.S. alone, tracking mobile phone behaviors including purchases, device usage and billing.

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