Android dominates holiday sales, except in the US and Japan

Android's rate of growth in the past year is beginning to slow down, as the number of first-time smartphone buyers is on the decline

Android manufacturers, led by Samsung, held the number one spot for smartphone sales during the holidays across the world, except two key markets: the U.S. and Japan, where Apple is on top.

The latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel Comtech for the 12 weeks to December 23, 2012, show that Android maintained a stronghold in Britain, Germany, France, most European countries and Australia, with more than 50 per cent of the market share, and up to 86 per cent in spaces such as Spain. Android also has a 72.5 per cent majority in the urban Chinese market.

However, in the US and in Japan, it's Apple's iPhone that has more than 50 per cent of the market, according to the study. In the US, Android's share declined slightly to 44.2 per cent, while iOS jumped year-on-year to 51.2 per cent, a 6.3 per cent increase. In Japan iOS has even more of the market at 66.2 per cent, while Android has just over a third.

Kantar estimates that a third of all handsets bought in December were given as Christmas gifts, with the majority of recipients under 18 years old, half of whom were women. The BlackBerry 9320 was the most popular gifted handset in December, followed by the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 and Apple iPhone 4S.

Android growth slowing down

Dominic Sunnebo, global consumer insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, said Android's rate of growth in the past year is beginning to slow down, as the number of first-time smartphone buyers is on the decline. "Among the handset manufacturers, Samsung has held on to the number one spot in Britain, claiming 35 per cent of smartphone sales, although Apple is now biting at its heels with 32 per cent," Sunnebo added. Overall, Samsung accounted for 43 per cent of phone sales in Europe and 27 per cent in the US.

The other players in the mobile market, BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion and Microsoft, are still at the bottom of the charts, but one of them is making progress. Windows Phone is growing in Europe, particularly in Britain and Italy, with shares hitting 5.9 per cent and 13.9 per cent, respectively, up from just 2.2 per cent and 2.8 per cent a year ago.

Sunnebo explained: "It has been far slower than Microsoft would have liked, but Windows Phone is now starting to gain respectable shares in a number of key European countries. However, its performance in the Chinese and US markets remains underwhelming. As the two largest smartphone markets in the world, these remain key challenges for Microsoft to overcome during 2013."

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