Kantar: Windows Phone gains ground on Android, iOS in Q1

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Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone fueled 5.6 percent of smartphones sold in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2013, up from 3.7 percent in the year-ago quarter, narrowing the gap on Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS, research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech reports.

While Android remains the top-selling smartphone OS in the U.S. market, powering 49.3 percent of all devices sold nationwide during the first quarter, the platform increased its market share just 1.4 percentage points compared to a year ago and slipped 1.9 percentage points versus the three-month period ending in February 2013. At the same time, iOS slipped from 44.6 percent sales in the first quarter of 2012 to 43.7 in the most recent quarter.

"As iOS and Android continue to battle it out for top selling smartphone OS, we have seen Windows steadily grow over the past year and is now at its highest sales share figure so far," said Kantar Worldpanel ComTech analyst Mary-Ann Parlato. "Windows' strength appears to be the ability to attract first-time smartphone buyers upgrading from a feature phone. Of those who changed their phone over the last year to a Windows smartphone, 52 percent had previously owned a feature phone. Comparatively, the majority of iOS and Android new customers were repeat smartphone buyers, with 55 percent of new iOS customers, and 51 percent of new Android customers coming from another smartphone. While the differences between these figures are small, with over half of the U.S. market still owning a feature phone, it's likely that many will upgrade over the coming year, which will ultimately contribute to more growth for the Windows brand."

BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) plummeted from 3.7 percent in the first three months of 2012 to just 0.9 percent in the first quarter of 2013. 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.

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) remains in the overall U.S. smartphone sales lead at 37.2 percent, up from 36.1 percent, trailed by AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) at 27.9 percent, unchanged from the year-earlier period. Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) accounted for 12.3 percent of nationwide smartphone sales in the first quarter, up from 11 percent a year ago, and T-Mobile USA fell from 12.7 percent to 9.5 percent. Beginning in the current quarter, T-Mobile USA will finally offer Apple's iPhone, which should improve its fortunes in the months ahead.

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