More of Sprint's customers are using iPhones, but that's not true for AT&T and Verizon

Windows Phone lurks in third place, with plenty of room to grow

Sprint recently saw growth in the percentage of its customers owning iPhones, while both Verizon Wireless and AT&T saw declines, an analyst firm said today.

The percentage of smartphone customers using an iPhone at Sprint went from 33.4% between February and April 2012 to 38.4% during the same months this year, according to data released by Kantar Worldwide ComTech USA.

A significant factor in the increase was that Sprint started selling the iPhone 4S in October 2011 and some Sprint Android customers are still converting to the iPhone as their two-year contracts expire, said Kantar analyst Mary-Ann Parlato in an interview.

The recent move by T-Mobile USA to sell the iPhone has so far had no impact on that carrier's sales. In fact, T-Mobile's share of all brands of smartphones sold declined while Sprint, AT&T and Verizon all saw increases for the same three months year-to-year.

In the February-April time period in 2012, T-Mobile had 14.8% of all smartphone sales in the U.S. That dropped to 11.3% for the same three months in 2013, Kantar said. Meanwhile, AT&T edged up over the year from 26.0% to 26.3%, while Verizon moved from 34.5% to 36.3% and Sprint grew from 11.7% to 13.1%.

Even though iPhone sales have had a major impact on carriers in the U.S., Parlato said she's watching Windows Phone sales with interest because of a recent surge. Windows Mobile and Windows Phone sales were just 3.8% of all U.S. smartphone sales in the three-month period in 2012, but that figure jumped to 5.6% in 2013. That's a faster pace than for Android, which went from 50.3% to 51.7% over the same period and for the iPhone, which jumped from 39.1% to 41.4% of U.S. sales.

"If this growth for Windows Phone keeps happening, they'll really have a good share some day," Parloto predicted.

"Windows is lurking in third place and will slowly increase," she said. "Little movements now are actually a big story."

Windows Phone adoption is happening at a faster pace in Europe than in the U.S. and smartphone penetration is higher in Europe than the U.S. Part of the European attraction for Windows Phone is the connection to Nokia, a long-time European leader that makes Lumia and other devices running Windows Phone.

Windows Phone has been attracting younger buyers, in the 25-34 age bracket, more than it did a year ago. Of those purchasing a Windows Phone device in the last year, 23% came from Android, 25% from another Windows phone and 42% moved up to a smartphone from a feature phone, Kantar said.

Kantar's figures are based on the percentage of 20,000 U.S. smartphone customers it contacts each month to track when they changed phones.

Parlato said the survey data tracks closely with actual sales reported by carriers, though not all the carriers reveal smartphone sales every quarter or for all platforms.

This article, More of Sprint's customers are using iPhones, but that's not true for AT&T and Verizon, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

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 mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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