Record sales of the iPhone 5 have given the company a 48.1% share of the US market but Android is still more popular in Europe.
The data, published this week by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, shows that while Android is a very close second with 46.7% of US smartphone users, Apple could be on course to pass the 50% mark if the momentum it has generated with its latest handset continues.
Dominic Sunnebo, global consumer insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, comments: "The last time we saw iOS overtake Android in the US was when the iPhone 4S was released and Apple managed to retain its lead for three consecutive periods. This time we predict that Apple will beat its previous high of 49.3% and achieve its highest ever share of the US smartphone market within the next two periods."
Although new features, such as 4G connectivity and a larger screen, have both played a part in the iPhone's success, the figures reveal that existing customer loyalty has played an equally important role in helping Apple to wrest the top spot back from Android, as 62% of its sales so far have come from existing customers upgrading to the latest Apple handset. Just over one in 10 sales (13%) have come from customers switching from Android while 6% of sales were to ex-Blackberry owners.
As Sunnebo explains: "Apple has always managed to maintain loyalty levels far above the competition, and this has clearly played a part in driving sales of its new device. An impressive 92% of existing Apple owners in the US said they will choose an iPhone the next time they upgrade. While loyalty is clearly key, it is also important to make sure that new customers are attracted to your brand. With roughly 60% of US iPhone 5 sales coming from existing customers and 40% from new consumers, Apple is achieving this at the moment -- a clear sign of the strength of the brand in the US marketplace."
Android leads abroad
However, outside the US, where network carriers are less inclined to supplement the high cost of a smartphone handset in order to attract customers to their data plans, Android has managed to retain its number-one position, boasting 81.7% of sales in Spain and 73.9% of sales in Germany. Apple's share of the German market fell by 5.1 percentage points year-on-year. Over the past 12 weeks alone, almost a quarter of German smartphone sales have been of Samsung Galaxy SIII handsets.
In Italy, Nokia continues to perform well and the company has seen strong sales of its Lumia 610 (the country's fourth best-selling phone) and Lumia 800 (Italy's seventh most popular handset over the past 12 weeks), giving Microsoft's operating system an 11.7% market share -- its highest in Europe.