Android had quite a proud moment in October, when Nielsen reported that, in the previous three months, 61.1 percent of recent smartphone acquirers had chosen an Android smartphone, compared with the 25.1 percent who purchased an Apple iPhone. After considerable delay, however, the iPhone 4S-expected to be an iPhone 5, frankly-went on sale in October. In a similar December poll, however, Nielsen found the playing field more leveled, with 44.5 percent of buyers having chosen an iPhone while 46.9 percent purchased an Android-running smartphone.
Among those consumers who bought an iPhone in the three months leading up to December, 57 percent purchased the iPhone 4S.
BlackBerry handsets from Research In Motion, meanwhile, were purchased by 7.7 percent of those surveyed in October and by 4.5 percent in December.
Despite the Apple comeback, the game goes to Android, whose overall market share during the fourth quarter was 46.3 percent, compared with 30 percent by Apple, 14.9 percent by BlackBerry and 4.6 percent by Windows Mobile. Hewlett-Packard's webOS managed to grab a 1.4 percent share, as did the all-but-extinct Symbian from Nokia. Windows Phone brought up the rear with 1.3 percent, though it will, no doubt, climb a few rungs in 2012-if not jiggle all the numbers a bit-once the duo of Nokia and Microsoft begin releasing devices in earnest, which is something they say will happen "soon."
All the above also helped to grow the overall number of U.S. mobile consumers now toting smartphones. In the December survey, 60 percent of consumers who said they'd purchased a new device in the last three months chose a smartphone, bringing the total of U.S. users to 46 percent.
In September, Nielsen reported that-in smartphones, as in politics-it's these new adopters, who are open to considerations and more easily swayed than upgraders, who are a major focus for manufacturers.
"Among those who say they are likely to get a new smartphone in the next year, approximately one-third say they want their next smartphone to be an iPhone and one-third say they want an Android device," wrote Nielsen's Don Kellogg, director of telecom research and insights. "However, among those who say they are usually the first to embrace new technologies, 'Innovators,' or the earliest of early adopters, Android leads as the 'Next Desired' Operating System-40 percent for Android, compared to 32 percent for iOS."
Among those manufacturers courting feature-phone converts is Samsung, which this week announced that it will pair its in-house Bada platform with Intel's Tizen.
"Bada will turn Samsung's conventional customers into smartphone users by providing cost-effective smartphones," Samsung announced in its early introduction of Bada. "This means that Bada will open and extend a new smartphone market, which does not exist in the current mobile market."
Arguably more so than Apple, HTC and Motorola have likewise been courting the feature-phone set. HTC and Motorola offer a variety of Android-running phones, including lower-cost units.