Study: Apple's iOS tops 50% of U.S. smartphone sales, Android slides

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Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS powered 53.3 percent of all smartphones sold in the U.S. during the 12-week-period ending Nov. 25, 2012, up from 35.8 percent in the year-ago period, according to new data published by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. The growth spurt signals the first time the iOS platform has surpassed a 50 percent share of sales in the American market.

Among all U.S. consumers who purchased an iPhone in November, 27 percent upgraded from another smartphone operating system, 34 percent upgraded from an earlier iPhone edition and 40 percent acquired their first smartphone. Kantar Worldpanel ComTech noted that 44 percent of Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) feature phone userbase upgraded to an iPhone during the period, compared to 38 percent of the AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) feature phone segment. At the same time, 51.7 percent of AT&T's existing iOS userbase upgraded to a newer iPhone model, compared to 15 percent of Verizon iOS users who made the change.

Although Apple released its iPhone 5 in late September, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech says legacy units like the iPhone 4 and 4S also fueled the iOS platform's recent U.S. gains. "This is particularly the case for first-time smartphone iPhone buyers, where we see the older models still selling well amongst this group," said Kantar Analyst Mary-Ann Parlato.

The growth of iOS translated to sales share declines for Android. The Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) mobile operating system fueled 41.9 percent of U.S. smartphones sold during the survey period, down from 52.8 percent in the period ending Nov. 27, 2011. Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry plummeted from 7 percent in the year-ago period to just 1.4 percent in November, falling to fourth nationwide behind Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone, which increased from 2.1 percent to 2.7 percent. Symbian accounted for 0.2 percent of U.S. sales, down from 0.4 percent a year earlier.

AT&T led all U.S. operator smartphone sales during the period ending Nov. 25, accounting for 35.4 percent of sales nationwide, up from 30.9 percent a year ago. Verizon Wireless follows at 31.9 percent (up from 31.3 percent), trailed by Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) at 14.5 percent (down from 19.5 percent) and T-Mobile USA at 7.1 percent (down from 9.4 percent). Smaller U.S. operators increased from 9 percent a year earlier to 11 percent.

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