Apple Surpasses Samsung to Become #1 U.S. Mobile Phone Vendor

Apple became the top mobile phone vendor in the United States for the first time during the fourth quarter of 2012, according to data published early Friday by Strategy Analytics. With 17.7 million iPhone shipments, the Cupertino electronics firm narrowly beat Samsung to take 34 percent of the entire U.S. mobile phone market.

Apple has become the number one mobile phone vendor by volume in the United States for the first time ever. Apple’s success has been driven by its popular ecosystem of iPhones and App Store, generous carrier subsidies, and extensive marketing around the new iPhone 5 model.

4Q 2012 U.S. Mobile Phone Shipments Apple Number 1

Apple’s 17.7 million U.S. iPhone shipments represented a roughly 32 percent increase over the 12.8 million units shipped in the fourth quarter of 2011. Samsung, which previously held the top spot since 2008, grew shipments 22 percent year-over-year, and fell to second place with 32.3 percent of the U.S fourth quarter market.

LG rounded out the top three with 9 percent of the market, but saw its shipments fall compared to the same quarter last year, with 6.9 million units in 4Q2011 compared to 4.7 million in 4Q2012. All other smartphone and feature phone shipments combined also fell, from 17.1 million units in 4Q2011 to 12.8 million in 4Q2012.

4Q 2012 U.S. Mobile Phone Shipments Apple Number 1

Overall, the entire U.S. mobile market shrank 11 percent for the year, from 186.8 million shipments in 2011 to 166.9 million in 2012. Economic uncertainty and more restrictive carrier upgrade policies were to blame, according to Strategy Analytics.

New phone models and increased consumer demand for 4G smartphones allowed the market to recover somewhat in the fourth quarter, however, and 4Q2012 shipments were 4 percent higher than those in 4Q2011.

Apple’s latest smartphone, the iPhone 5, was released in September 2012. Current rumors and analyst predictions expect Apple to refresh the iPhone in the third calendar quarter of 2013, with speculation increasing that Apple will expand the product line to include a lower-cost model, a larger roughly 5-inch model, or both.

Samsung is also expected to unveil several new phones this year, including the highly anticipated successor to the company’s successful Galaxy S III smartphone.