Is Apple Stealing Android Users?

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) may have gotten a string of bad news about its products recently, but according to a new survey, its iOS platform continues to be the market leader in the U.S. and is stealing users away from rivals Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM).

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According to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech data, Apple’s iOS accounted for 51.2 percent of all U.S. smartphone sales for the 12-week period ending December 23, 2012. This represented a growth of more than 7 percent from the 44.9 percent over the same period in 2011. Meanwhile, Android’s share fell from 44.8 percent in 2011 to 44.2 percent, while RIM suffered an even bigger decline — falling from 6.1 percent of smartphone sales to 1.1 percent.

“Apple’s continual improvement is thanks to both the iPhone 5 and older models attracting various customer groups, from repeat Apple buyers, first time smartphone buyers and those coming from other smartphone brands,” Kantar’s Mary-Ann Parlato said in a statement. According to Parlato, 36 percent of iOS sales were derived from other smartphone users over the last year, including 19 percent from Android users. That was up from 9 percent Android converts in 2011.

According to the research firm, Apple’s strategy of annual iPhone upgrades alongside price cuts for its previous-generation versions contribute to its growth and help it extend its reach to low-tier markets.

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The survey also broke down operating system trends according to carrier share. AT&T (NYSE:T) took in 55 percent of new iOS sales from existing iPhone owners, while 6 percent switched from Android. At Verizon (NYSE:VZ), 49 percent of iPhone sales were derived from users of other smartphone brands, with 30 percent being former Android owners. Apple upgrades made up 37 percent of sales at the carrier. In addition, AT&T sold the most smartphones at 33.3 percent of the market, while Verizon followed at 32 percent and Sprint (NYSE:S) came in third with 14.8 percent.

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