iPhone 4S helps iOS close the gap on Android

According to Nielsen, nearly twice as many consumers chose the iPhone in December, compared with October. However, more people still bought Android handsets in December.

Don Reisinger
Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
2 min read
The iPhone 4S helped grow Apple's fourth-quarter market share.
The iPhone 4S helped bump up Apple's fourth-quarter market share. Apple

Apple's iPhone 4S proved to be the catalyst that jump-started iPhone sales last quarter, a new study from Nielsen has found.

Among Americans who bought a new smartphone in the last three months, 44.5 percent of those surveyed in December purchased an iPhone, putting Apple's handset just behind Android smartphones, which were picked up by 46.9 percent of December respondents, according to Nielsen. RIM's BlackBerry came in at 4.5 percent.

That finding stands in stark contrast to results from Nielsen's October survey of consumers who bought a new smartphone in the previous three months. That time around, 61.6 percent of consumers said they chose an Android-based handset, and just 25.1 percent said they bought an iPhone. BlackBerry came in third place at 7.7 percent.

Not surprisingly, Apple's iPhone 4S, which launched in October, was the reason the company's smartphone performed so much better later in the year. In fact, Nielsen found that 57 percent of new iPhone owners surveyed in December bought the iPhone 4S. The research firm didn't say how many bought the iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4.

Apple's iPhone 4S was a hit nearly instantly. The company announced back in October that in the first weekend of availability, it sold 4 million units, doubling iPhone 4 sales during its first weekend. Part of the iPhone 4S' appeal was pent-up demand, as consumers waited over a year to get their hands on the device.

But even as more consumers flocked to the iPhone, Apple could do little to stop Android from dominating the smartphone arena last quarter. According to Nielsen, Android OS captured 46.3 percent share of the smartphone market during the three-month period, easily outpacing Apple's iOS 30 percent share. RIM's OS came in third place with 14.9 percent, followed by Windows Mobile at 4.6 percent share.

A look at how consumers purchased smartphones over the last three months.
A look at how consumers purchased smartphones over the last three months. Nielsen

Over the entire three-month period--not monthly, as previously shown--it was a similar story. During the fourth quarter, 51.7 percent of people who bought devices went with an Android handset. Apple's iPhone accounted 37 percent. RIM's BlackBerry came in at 6 percent.

Looking beyond iPhones and Android, Nielsen found that 46 percent of all U.S.-based mobile consumers last quarter owned a smartphone, and the company expects that figure to grow "quickly." It's hard to argue with that logic: 60 percent of all mobile consumers last quarter chose a smartphone over a feature phone.