The iPhone 5 and Apple's loyal fan base continues to impact the U.S. smartphone market, according a Dec. 4 report from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech USA that offers a glimpse at the that market during the 12 weeks leading up to Oct. 28.
The iPhone 5 became available on the AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless networks Sept. 21, and demand quickly exceeded supply.
iPhones accounted for 66 percent of sales on the AT&T network during those 12 weeks—up from 49 percent a year earlier—helping to give AT&T the majority share of U.S. smartphone sales during the quarter. While a year ago AT&T held a 26 percent share to Verizon Wireless' 30 percent, this year AT&T grabbed 35 percent to Verizon's nearly 28 percent.
Sprint's share of the market dipped during that time from 21 percent to 20 percent, while T-Mobile—the only top-tier carrier without an iPhone—saw shares fall more dramatically, from 14 percent to 8 percent.
Still, AT&T's iPhone buyers weren't necessarily tempted away from its competitors.
"Our research shows that the majority of Apple's sales, 62 percent, came from existing Apple owners upgrading to the new device," Kantar analyst Mary-Ann Parlato said in a Dec. 4 statement.
The availability of the newest iPhone also helped to make older models more accessible to more customers. While the iPhone 5 "gained the lion's share of iOS sales" at AT&T, said the report, "sales increases also trickled down to the lower-priced predecessors, the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 4."
At Verizon, Android's lead has mellowed and it now more equally splits Verizon's smartphone base with Apple.
"Android remains on top; however, momentum has slowed with smartphone sales shares declining year-on-year from 60.1 percent to 50.5 percent for the OS," said the Kantar report. "It's within this carrier where iOS has closed the gap, as the brand now represents 47.9 percent of Verizon smartphones sold in the latest period."
The iPhone 5 also enabled Apple's iOS platform to retake the number-one spot in the United States, as it edged ahead of Android for the first time since April. As of Oct. 28, iOS held a 48 percent share to Android's nearly 47 percent. A year ago, Apple held just 22 percent to Android's 63 percent.
Beyond the two major platforms, adjustments of note were also taking place. While shares of Windows-running smartphones fell slightly, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion's market share dropped dramatically, enabling Windows—with a 3 percent share to RIM's 2 percent—to take the highly contested third spot.
Carriers have been clear about wanting three platforms to support. Where that leaves the fourth-place OS will remain to be seen. And the battle between Microsoft and RIM is hardly decided. Microsoft launched its newest mobile OS, Windows Phone 8, Oct. 29—a day after the window on the Kantar data closed—and on Jan. 30 RIM will introduce BlackBerry 10, its long-awaited new platform.
Despite what the carriers want, analysts have suggested that the dominance of Apple and Android will leave no room for a third major player, and at Verizon during the quarter this theory played out. While iOS and Android neared a 50-50 split, RIM's share fell from 6 percent a year ago, to 0.7 percent, and Windows' share dropped from 2.7 percent a year ago to 0.6 percent during the third quarter.