Apple's White iPhone 4 Could Affect Android Rivalry

Apple's white iPhone 4 could change the short-term makeup of the smartphone marketplace, and allow Apple to hold its own against Google Android's device family.

Will the white iPhone 4 boost Apple's share of the smartphone market?

According to new research by NPD Group, Apple is managing to hold its own against the growing army of Google Android smartphones without the help of a new device-or at least, a new device color-on the market. On the basis of first-quarter smartphone sales, NPD Group places Apple third in the U.S. market, with 14 percent, trailing Samsung at 23 percent and LG Electronics at 18 percent but remaining ahead of HTC, Motorola and Research In Motion's BlackBerry franchise.

"Apple and Verizon had a very successful launch of the iPhone 4, which allowed the iPhone to expand its market share that was previously held back by its prolonged carrier exclusivity with AT&T," Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis at NPD Group, wrote in an April 28 statement. "While some of that growth came at the expense of Android operating system, Android models still accounted for half of all smartphones sold in the quarter."

The firm also named the iPhone 4 the top-selling mobile phone in the United States, followed by the iPhone 3GS, Motorola Droid X, HTC Evo 4G and HTC Droid Incredible. Smartphone sales increased 8 percent in the quarter, although overall handset sales apparently fell 1 percent.

According to other analysts, the presence of a white iPhone could have a significant-although not necessarily blockbuster-impact on the smartphone landscape through the summer.

"The purchase of consumer electronic devices is not always a completely rational decision, and people buy Apple products for many different reasons, including status, aesthetics, functionality, quality and the -cool factor,'" Brian White, an analyst with Ticonderoga Securities, wrote in an April 27 research note. "In our view, this delay has created a certain mystique and scarcity value around the -white' iPhone 4 that we believe could drive incremental iPhone 4 purchases in the range of 1 million to 1.5 million units per quarter until the iPhone 5 potentially comes to market in September."

Apple officially released the white iPhone 4 April 28, following months of delays and speculation. Available on both Verizon and AT&T in the United States, the smartphone boasts the same specs as the black iPhone 4 that made its initial debut in 2010.

In explaining those delays to AllThingsD April 27, Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, suggested that building the white iPhone 4 had been "challenging" with regard to the "material science of it-how it holds up over time ... but also in how it all works with the sensors."

The iPhone can clearly do substantial business on multiple carriers. In an April 21 call with analysts and media, Verizon Wireless reported some 2 million iPhone activations. Around 78 percent of the carrier's iPhone sales were upgrades, while 22 percent went to new customers. AT&T, which had an exclusive lock on the iPhone until February, also reported robust results.