Apple managed to outsell Samsung Electronics by almost one million units to become the No. 1 mobile phone vendor in the U.S. for the first time ever during the fourth quarter, according to Strategy Analytics.
Apple has seen its stock price tumble recently as the U.S. stock market doubts the company's ability to grow, but U.S. buyers still covet its iPhones more than any other brand.
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The company shipped 17.7 million iPhones for a record 34 percent share of the market. That compares to the 12.8 million units Apple shipped during the fourth quarter of 2011, for 25 percent market share, according to Strategy Analytics' estimates. The key to Apple's success is its ecosystem of iPhones and App Store, combined with generous subsidies from carriers and extensive marketing of the iPhone 5, the market analyst said.
Samsung had been the number-one mobile phone vendor in the U.S. since 2008, and shipped 16.8 million units during the fourth quarter. The company will now have to set its sights on recapturing the U.S. number one spot in 2013 by launching new and improved smartphones such as the rumored Galaxy S4.
The company was still the biggest seller of phones in the U.S. during 2012, shipping 53 million phones to Apple's 43.7 million, Strategy Analytics said.
LG Electronics came in third during the fourth quarter, but the company saw its shipments drop to 4.7 million phones, down from 6.9 million a year earlier, for a 9 percent market share, according to Strategy Analytics' estimates.
In general, the holiday shopping season was a return to form for the U.S. phone market. After having contracted 16 percent during the first three quarters of 2012 due to economic uncertainty and tighter carrier upgrade policies, phone sales grew by 4 percent year on year to 52 million, Strategy Analytics said.
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