iPhone 5 Puts Apple Back on Top of U.S. Smartphone Market

Apple, with the iPhone 5, has taken back the majority share of U.S. smartphone sales, says a new report, though Android still rules globally.

Android may rule worldwide, but in the United States, the Apple iPhone is again king.

Strong sales during the 12 weeks since the iPhone 5's Sept. 21 release have put Apple back on top, according to a Nov. 27 report from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. Apple's iOS now commands a 48.1 percent share of U.S. smartphone sales to Android's 46.7 percent.

"The last time we saw iOS overtake Android in the United States was when the iPhone 4S was released and Apple managed to retain its lead for three consecutive periods," Dominic Sunnebo, global consumer insight director at Kantar, said in a statement. "This time we predict that Apple will beat its previous high of 49.3 percent and achieve its highest-ever share of the U.S. smartphone market within the next two periods."

In the first three days after the iPhone 5's launch, Apple announced that it had sold more than 4 million units.

Apple's primary Android-based competitor is Samsung and its Galaxy S III. At the start of November, Samsung officials announced that the company had sold more than 30 million units since the pocket-challenging device went on sale in May. Analysts have applauded Samsung's timing of the release, which took advantage of the long summer ahead of Apple's historically autumn-timed introduction of its newest iPhone.

In a July report on the year's second-quarter smartphone shipments, Samsung sales had grown by 173 percent year-over-year while Apple's grew 27.5 percent but declined sequentially—a fact that analysts with IDC brushed away, noting, "The decline is not unusual as iPhone shipment volume is highest in the first two quarters after its release. The company's once-a-year release cycle usually results in two quarters of lower volumes leading up to the next-generation model introduction."

As the world awaited the iPhone 5, Samsung made inroads into Europe, and Android now accounts for nearly 74 percent of sales in Germany and 82 percent in Spain, according to the Kantar report.

"Germany remains a tough market for Apple with its share falling by 5.1 percentage points over the past year," said Sunnebo. "The Samsung Galaxy S3 has taken almost a quarter of the country's smartphone sales over the past 12 weeks to boost Android yet further."

In Italy, Nokia and its Windows Phone devices have also challenged Apple. Helped by the Nokia Lumia 610, the fourth best-selling device, and the Lumia 800, the seventh best-seller, Windows Phone has as a nearly 12 percent share of the Italian market—its highest across Europe.

Kantar added that while iPhone sales may rise and fall with release dates, the key to Apple's success is the loyalty of its users, which is unmatched in the industry.

"An impressive 92 percent of existing Apple owners in the U.S. said they will choose an iPhone the next time they upgrade. While loyalty is key, it is also important to make sure that new customers are attracted to your brand," said Sunnebo.

"With roughly 60 percent of U.S. iPhone 5 sales coming from existing customers and 40 percent from new customers," he added, "Apple is achieving this at the moment—a clear sign of the strength of the brand in the U.S. marketplace."