Apple iOS Continues to Lead as Best-Selling U.S. Smartphone OS

In November, iOS dominated U.S. sales even more, for the first time surpassing a 50 percent total sales share in the country, according to a report.

Apple's iOS mobile device operating system continues to lead the United States in overall market share, according to a new report from consumer market research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

The iOS operating system held 53.3 percent of the U.S. market for the 12-week period ending Nov. 25, marking the first time the platform has surpassed a 50 percent sales share of the American smartphone market, reported Kantar Worldpanel in a Jan. 7 announcement.

That contrasted with a decline in market share by Google's Android, which dropped by 10.9 percent in the period to end up at a 41.9 percent market share, the report stated. Microsoft's Windows mobile operating system came in at third place in the U.S. market with a 2.7 percent market share for the period.

"The iPhone 5 has been successful this period, however, we also see that Apple's older models—the iPhone 4S and 4 have also contributed to the growing share of iOS," Kantar Worldpanel ComTech analyst Mary-Ann Parlato said in a statement. "This is particularly the case for first-time smartphone iPhone buyers where we see the older models still selling well amongst this group."

Based on the sales figures, AT&T maintains its status as the top selling smartphone carrier with 35.4 percent of smartphones sold in the 12-week period, according to Kantar Worldpanel. Verizon followed with 31.9 percent of the smartphones that were sold, and Sprint garnered 14.5 percent sales share, down 5 percent from the same period one year ago.

Kantar Worldpanel collects its data figures through interviews with 26,000 consumers each year in the United States, according to the company.

Of those who purchased an iPhone in November, 27 percent upgraded from another smartphone OS, 34 percent upgraded from a previous iPhone and 40 percent upgraded to their first smartphone, according to Kantar.

But the news for Google's Android isn't all bad when the overall world market is taken into account.

In fact, Google's Android was the OS of choice on 75 percent of the 181.1 million smartphones that shipped around the world in the third quarter of 2012, which was five times the 14.9 percent market share of Apple's iOS for the same period.

The new figures are contained in IDC's latest Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report, which was released Nov. 1, just three days after Google launched its new Nexus 4 smartphone and Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets, all running on Android.

The IDC report shows remarkable progress for the four-year-old Android OS against competition that includes the still-strong popularity of Apple iOS, a drastically smaller BlackBerry market, Microsoft's multiple Windows Phone efforts and the rest of a straggling field.

Android was on 136 million smartphones shipped in the quarter, compared with 26.9 million smartphones shipped by Apple, according to the report. For Android, that was a 91.5 percent year-over-year jump from the 71 million Android smartphones shipped in the same quarter one year ago.

Interestingly, iOS was the only other mobile operating system to have a double-digit market share for the quarter. Research In Motion's BlackBerry OS shipped on 7.7 million smartphones in the quarter, while Symbian shipped on 4.1 million units, according to IDC. Windows Phone 7 or Windows Mobile shipped on 3.6 million devices, while Linux shipped on 2.8 million units.

Android use has been going through the roof worldwide. In fact, Android hit 500 million device activations overall in mid-September, just as Apple's latest iPhone 5 was about to launch.

The U.S. market for feature-rich smartphones is still expanding at a rapid clip, with two-thirds of new mobile phone buyers opting for devices that can do far more than their old-style flip phones, according to a study from Nielsen released in July. Google's Android operating system is the beneficiary of this surge, although the iPhone still holds sway.