Feb. 6, 2012 at 3:03 PM ET
Apple surged past Samsung and LG to have the best-selling phone brand in the United States, capturing 43 percent of the smartphone market in the last quarter of 2011. But among first-time smartphone buyers, 57 percent purchased Android phones compared to 34 percent who bought iPhones.
The information comes from The NPD Group, which said that combined, Android-based phones and the iPhone "accounted for over 90 percent of smartphone sales" in the fourth quarter.
“Android has been criticized for offering a more complex user experience than its competitors, but the company’s wide carrier support and large app selection is appealing to new smartphone customers,” said Ross Rubin, executive director, Connected Intelligence for The NPD Group, in a press release.
Android phones are made by a variety of manufacturers, including Samsung, LG, HTC and Motorola. Notably absent from the NPD Group's findings were Windows phones and those made by Research In Motion, once the smartphone leader. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBCUniversal.)
The added availability of the iPhone at Sprint last fall (the only major carrier to not have the phone now is T-Mobile), and the launch of the iPhone 4S in October helped catapult it to the top spot, said Rubin.
"Attracted by a faster processor, improved camera and the Siri speech-driven agent, most iPhone buyers paid a premium for the iPhone 4S, making it the top-selling handset in Q4," he said. He noted that the iPhone 4S "outsold the iPhone 4 by 75 percent, and outsold the iPhone 3GS, available for free on AT&T, five to one.”
Smartphones themselves continued to grab an increased share of the mobile market over less-complex feature phones. In the last quarter, smartphone sales represented 68 percent of the mobile phone market, up 18 percent from the last quarter of 2010, NPD Group said.
The "average selling price" for smartphones was $143 in the fourth quarter, $6 less than the average price of $149 in the last quarter of 2010.
And even though the new iPhone outsold its older siblings, all iPhone models led the top-selling handset list for the fourth quarter, with Samsung Galaxy models next in line:
1. Apple iPhone 4S
2. Apple iPhone 4
3. Apple iPhone 3GS
4. Samsung GALAXY S II
5. Samsung GALAXY S 4G