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iPhone market share drops in US but climbs across Europe

The iPhone continues to prove hot among buyers in Europe, through Android still dominates the worldwide market by a wide margin, according to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

iPhone sales got hotter last quarter in Europe but cooled off a bit in the US. CNET

The iPhone's market share grew during the second quarter throughout Europe as well as China, Japan and Australia but dipped in the US, research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech said in a report released Wednesday.

For the second quarter of 2015, the iPhone's market share grew by 2.1 percent from the same quarter last year across Europe's five biggest markets, namely the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Growth was strongest in the UK at 5.5 percent and weakest in Italy at only 0.1 percent. Beyond Europe, the iPhone's market share surged by 9.1 in Australia, 7.3 percent in China and 2.7 percent in Japan.

But the iPhone took a dip in the US last quarter, which ended June 30, dropping by 2.3 percent to grab a market share of 30.5 percent from 32.8 percent in the same quarter in 2014.

Why would the iPhone's market share rise across Europe but fall in the United States? One key reason is competition from Android in the US. Though Google's mobile OS remains dominant around the world, its share fell by 2.5 percent in Europe's five largest markets. Android's smartphone market share dropped by 6.2 percent in Germany, 6.1 percent in the UK and 3.9 percent in Italy. Though the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are now more than 10 months old, and the next-generation iPhone lineup is due in September, demand for the latest models remains strong in Europe and other nations. But Apple's Android rivals provided a tougher fight in the US.

"Apple iOS returned to growth across all of Europe's 'big five' markets, as it recorded its first year-on-year gain in France since February 2015," Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, said in a press release. "In the U.S., as we forecasted last month, Android's growth continued in the quarter ending June 30, with both Samsung and LG increasing their share sequentially. Forty-three percent of all Android buyers mentioned a 'good deal on the price of the phone' as the main purchase driver for their new device."

There were a few other factors that contributed to the iPhone's lower share in the US, Milanesi said. Early demand for the iPhone in the US was strong, so sales would be expected to start leveling off a little at this point. Samsung's Galaxy S6 fared better in the US than in Europe among smartphone buyers. And in the US, vendors such as LG have gained market share due to the impact of new data plans on mid-range devices.

Though the iPhone comes in different sizes and capacities, it's still just one phone, and with a relatively high price tag. Android vendors such as Samsung and LG sell a variety of phones, some with lower prices that appeal to budget-conscious consumers. LG in particular is doing well in the US. The company recently reported that its mobile sales fell by 29 percent in South Korea but jumped by 36 percent in North America.

"Android in the US is undergoing its strongest consolidation yet, with Samsung and LG now accounting for 78 percent of all Android sales," Milanesi added. "LG is the real success story of the quarter. Not only did it double its share of the US smartphone market once again, but it was also able, for the first time, to acquire more first-time smartphone buyers than Samsung."

Screen size was the main driver for Android buyers across Europe, according to Dominic Sunnebo, business unit director at Kantar. Samsung and LG both sell big-screen "phablet" phones. Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 sports a 5.7-inch screen, while LG's G4 packs in a 5.5-inch screen. Though the iPhone 6 Plus also uses a 5.5-inch display, iOS buyers are driven by a wider range of factors, Sunnebo said, including "phone reliability and durability, as well as the quality of the materials."

Kantar Worldpanel ComTech derives its findings from consumer panels in 12 countries: the U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Spain, the U.S., China, Japan, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico.

Correction, 8:15 a.m. PT: This story originally misstated the focus of Kantar's study. Kantar's percentages refer to market share, not unit sales.