Android represented more than half of U.S. smartphone sales in the last quarter of 2013, while the iPhone's share dropped to 43.9% from nearly 50% the prior year, Kantar WorldPanel ComTech said Monday.
The Android improvement in the U.S. brought it to 50.6% of the market for the quarter, up from 46.2% share in fourth quarter of 2012, Kantar said.
Kantar didn't publish unit sales volumes, focusing instead only on market share percentages. But the overall growth in smartphone sales globally meant that Apple actually sold more iPhones in the fourth quarter in the U.S. compared to the 2012 final quarter, while incurring the drop in share, said Kantar analyst Carolina Milanesi.
"Android finished 2013 strongly, showing year-on-year share growth across 12 major global markets, including Europe, USA, Latin America, China and Japan," said Kantar analyst Dominic Sunnebo in a statement. "Apple has lost share in most countries compared with this time last year, but importantly it has held strong shares in key markets, including 43.9% in the USA, 29.9% in Great Britain and 19% in China."
While the U.S. might seem to be the best market for the iPhone in terms of market share, Kantar said the iPhone represented 68.7% of sales in Japan in the fourth quarter, with Japan's largest carrier -- NTT DoCoMO -- Softbank and AU KDDI all selling iPhone models as more than half of their inventory.
Windows Phone also grew in share in nearly every market Kantar followed. In the U.S., Windows Phone had 4.3% of the market, up from 2.4% a year earlier. In Italy, it had 17% of the market, well above iOS at 12.8% but also well behind Android at 66%. Windows Phone had its the largest market share in Italy of any of the markets that Kantar reported on.
Milanesi said that Windows Phones sold by Nokia under the Lumia brand were not what would have been expected for the holiday season, "but were not as bad as initial headlines made them out to be." Nokia said it sold 8.2 million Lumia phones for the fourth quarter, down from the 8.8 million sold in the prior quarter.
"The slowdown in Nokia momentum, I believe, had more to do with carriers being cautious to sell in a transitional period while they see what Microsoft will do with the Lumia line," Milanesi added. "That, plus the new iPhone models and the Samsung promotions over the holidays make the U.S. market a challenging one for a brand -- Nokia -- that is still not top of mind for consumers."
Microsoft is expected to complete its $7.4 billion purchase of Nokia's handset division this quarter.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.