For the first time, a majority of all new mobile phones bought in the U.S. during the first quarter were smartphones -- at 54%, according to new data from market research firm NPD Group. That follows on the heels of research from Nielsen this week indicating that 36% of U.S. mobile consumers own smartphones, up from 31% at the end of 2010.
Aided by the launch of the Verizon iPhone, Apple became the third-largest handset maker in the first quarter overall in the U.S., behind Samsung and LG. Apple claimed 14% of the market, compared to Samsung's 23% and LG, 18%. Rounding out the top six manufacturers were HTC, Motorola and BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion.
Verizon, which began offering the iPhone 4 in February, last week said that it sold 2.2 million units of the Apple device during the first quarter. Apple itself reported selling a whopping 18.7 million iPhones during the first three months of the year, more than double the year-earlier period. Both Apple and Verizon could see a further boost in sales from today's release of the long-awaited white iPhone 4.
The Verizon iPhone also helped Apple's iOS platform gain some ground against Android, which lost market share during the first quarter for the first time since the second quarter of 2009. Android-based phones slipped to 50% of smartphone unit sales from 53% in the prior quarter, while iOS gained nine percentage points to comprise 28% of the smartphone market. The BlackBerry OS dropped five percentage points to 14%.
"Apple and Verizon had a very successful launch of the iPhone 4, which allowed the iPhone to expand its market share, previously held back by its prolonged carrier exclusivity with AT&T," said Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis at NPD. "While some of that growth came at the expense of the Android operating system, Android models still accounted for half of all smartphones sold in the quarter."
Other data released by Nielsen showed that Android had eclipsed iOS as the smartphone platform most in-market smartphone shoppers want to buy. And half of those surveyed in March who had purchased a smartphone in the past six months said they had chosen an Android device. That matches up roughly with the NPD findings.
Driven by growing smartphone sales in the first quarter, the average price for all mobile phones rose 2% over the previous quarter to $102. At the same time, the average price for smartphones fell 3% to $145.