Apple iPhone 4S

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Apple iPhone 4S

The chief reason iOS sales surged in the December quarter was the launch of the iPhone 4S in mid-October. Okay, so it came later than Apple usually upgrades its iPhones, and it wasn't the iPhone 5. Yet a superior camera, faster processor and other features were clearly a strong attraction for consumers. Nielsen said that 57 percent of new iPhone owners surveyed in December purchased an iPhone 4S.

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Siri Personal Assistant

Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant application, was a key feature of iPhone S, performing voice search and other tasks. Siri goes beyond the current iteration of Google Voice Actions and may become a major input interface for Apple televisions in the future.

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Sprint Starts Selling Apple iPhone

Apple added Sprint to its carrier lineup and the No. 3 U.S. carrier sold the iPhone 4S along with AT&T and Verizon Wireless, both of whom are also enjoying tremendous iPhone sales. Sprint expects to report sales of at least 1 million iPhones in the fourth quarter.

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AT&T Selling Plenty of iPhones

AT&T CFO John Stephens said in December the carrier will sell more than 6 million smartphones in the fourth quarter. Stephens said AT&T in large part owes its strong smartphone sales to handset upgrades from customers who were waiting for the iPhone 4S. AT&T activated more than 1 million iPhone 4S units in the first five days of the device's sales.

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Verizon Pitched In, Too

Verizon, which began selling the iPhone 4 last February, sold 6.5 million iPhones during the first nine months of 2011, making the Code Division Multiple Access-based (CDMA-based) device a big hit for the carrier.

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Apple Discounts

Apple also wisely discounted the iPhone 4 to $99 on contract from AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, and gave the iPhone 3GS away on contract from AT&T. Nielsen said the iPhone 4 and 3GS models comprised 43 percent of iPhones purchased by those surveyed in December.

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Android Fatigue

The iPhone could also be excelling because of Android fatigue. Consider that Android phones only launched in earnest in 2009, with the rollout of the Motorola Droid device in November 2009. Many users of the first Android handsets obviously saw their two-year data contracts with carriers expire in 2011. Certainly, some of those consumers who were tired or dissatisfied with Android switched to the iPhone instead.

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Android Fragmentation

Why would Android users switch? Fragmentation of Android versions is one issue. Android's variety of form factors and OS builds is a blessing and a curse. While this provides more consumer choice, it also means it's hard for phones to upgrade to the latest and greatest Android OS builds. Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich went live in October, but it's still only available on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Many ICS phones are on the way, but most users are still stuck using Android 2.3 Gingerbread.

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