Android the choice of first-time smartphone buyers in Q4 2011, Apple takes top smartphone maker spot

Alex Wagner
Editorial Director of News and Content from  Omaha, NE
| February 6, 2012

NPD Group graph

Today the folks at The NPD Group let loose their findings on sales in the U.S. smartphone market during the fourth quarter of 2011, and it looks like both the Android and iOS crowds have something to celebrate. First up, The NPD Group's numbers show that Android was the number one choice among first-time smartphone buyers in Q4 2011, with 57 percent of those consumers selecting Google's little green robot to help them enter the world of smartphones. Meanwhile, 34 percent of first-time buyers chose an iOS-powered handset, with all other platforms combining for 9 percent. When it came to all smartphone buyers things were a tad closer, with 48 percent of consumers selecting Android and 43 percent opting for iOS. That means that Android and iOS claimed over 90 percent of smartphone sales last quarter.

When it comes to sales of individual devices, Apple took the top three spots on the list with the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS coming in first, second and third. The NPD Group says that the new 4S outsold the iPhone 4 by 75 percent and the 3GS by five to one. Moving on down the list, the Samsung Galaxy S II took the fourth spot on the list of Q4's best-selling handsets, with the Samsung Galaxy S 4G rounding out the top five. When it comes to smartphones in general, research found that smartphones make up 68 percent of the entire U.S. cell phone market, an 18 percent jump from Q4 2010. It was also revealed that the average selling price of a smartphone in Q4 2011 settled at $143, an $8 increase from the previous quarter.

Overall The NPD Group's report is a pretty interesting read. The fact that Android and iOS came out on top isn't much of a surprise considering some of the figures we saw in the last couple months of 2011, but it's good to see that smartphone use continues to grow, a statistic that likely owes quite a bit of growth to things like cheaper tiered data plans and cheap (or free) on contract handsets. As for the increase in the average selling price of smartphones? We can probably thank the arrival of several $200+ on-contract devices like the Nitro HD and Galaxy Nexus for that. If you're interested in reading the full report, you can find the press release below. How many of you picked up a new smartphone in the final months of 2011? Was it your first smartphone?

The NPD Group: Apple Leads Mobile Handsets in Q4 2011, But Android Attracts More First-Time Smartphone Buyers

PORT WASHINGTON, NEW YORK, February 6, 2012 – According to The NPD Group, a leading market research company, Apple leaped past Samsung and LG to become the best-selling U.S. handset brand in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2011. In a quarter that featured the launch of the iPhone 4S and the addition of Sprint, Apple’s three available models combined to capture 43 percent of the U.S. smartphone market in Q4. 

"Attracted by a faster processor, improved camera and the Siri speech-driven agent, most iPhone buyers paid a premium for the iPhone 4S, making it the top-selling handset in Q4," said Ross Rubin, executive director, Connected Intelligence for The NPD Group. “The iPhone 4S outsold the iPhone 4 by 75 percent, and outsold the iPhone 3GS, available for free on AT&T, five to one.”

Together, Android and iPhone accounted for over 90 percent of smartphone sales, with Android holding on to 48 percent of the smartphone market during the quarter; however, Android devices performed better among first-time smartphone buyers.  Based on the latest data from The NPD Group’s monthly Smartphone Track service, among the first-time smartphone buyers in Q4, 57 percent purchased Android phones compared to just 34 percent who purchased iPhones. 

“Android has been criticized for offering a more complex user experience than its competitors, but the company’s wide carrier support and large app selection is appealing to new smartphone customers,” Rubin said. “Android’s support of LTE at Verizon has also made it the exclusive choice for customers who want to take advantage of that carrier’s fastest network.”

The overall share of mobile phone sales that are smartphones continued to climb in Q4 2011, reaching 68 percent of the total mobile phone market, which is an increase of 18 percentage points since Q4 2010. Based on the latest data from NPD’s monthly Mobile Phone Track service, average selling prices for smartphones increased eight dollars over the prior quarter, reaching $143 in Q4 2011, which is still below average price of $149 in Q4 2010. Led by continued steady sales for Apple’s iPhones, the top five best-selling mobile phone handsets in Q4 were as follows:

Apple iPhone 4S

Apple iPhone 4

Apple iPhone 3GS


Samsung GALAXY S 4G

Information in this press release is from Mobile Phone Track and Smartphone Track, both of which report on the activities of U.S. consumers, age 18 and older, who reported purchasing a mobile phone or smartphone. NPD does not track corporate/enterprise mobile phone purchases.

Via The Verge, The NPD Group