NPD: Apple's iOS closes in on Android with Q4 sales surge

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Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS is narrowing the gap on Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android after its U.S. market share (by smartphone sales) increased from 26 percent in the third quarter of 2011 to 43 percent in October and November, according to new data published by research firm NPD. Apple's sales spike follows the Oct. 14 release of the new iPhone 4S.

Android nevertheless continued to lead all operating systems, powering 47 percent of all smartphones sold in the U.S. during October and November, down from a high of 60 percent in the third quarter, NPD reports. Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry generated just 6 percent of U.S. smartphone sales during the first two months of the fourth quarter, down 2 percentage points quarter-over-quarter and slipping from 19 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010. Smartphones accounted for two out of every three handsets sold in October and November, up from 50 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010, NPD adds.

Android and iOS now power a combined 75.6 percent of all smartphones nationwide according to recent data from digital research firm comScore. As of November, Android devices make up 46.9 percent of all smartphones across the United States, up 3.1 percentage points since August 2011; iOS was the only other mobile platform to exhibit growth during the period, increasing 1.4 percentage points over August to capture 28.7 percent of the national smartphone segment. Smartphone ownership in the U.S. market reached 91.4 million in November 2011, up 8 percent from the preceding three-month period, comScore notes.

Application analytics provider Flurry estimates that consumers activated 6.8 million iOS and Android devices on Christmas Day 2011, a 353 percent increase over daily activations during the first three weeks of the month and a year-over-year increase of 140 percent. Although Christmas is always the largest mobile device activation day of the calendar year, the momentum continued through the end of the month: Flurry later reported Monday that between Dec. 25 and Dec. 31, subscribers activated more than 20 million iOS and Android devices in all, the most activations ever recorded in a single week.

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