For all the headlines about Android dominating iOS, Apple is flexing its mobile operating system muscle. A new report from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech reveals that iOS is gaining ground on Android thanks, in part, to T-Mobile.
While smartphone sales overall have remained relatively stable in the three months ending May 2013 compared to the year-ago period, Kantar reports iOS has gained 3.5 percent of market share. Meanwhile, Android's market share remains unchanged this year.
According to Kantar, Android still leads smartphone sales and boasts a market dominating 52 percent of the market. But iOS is closing the gap with 41.9 percent of sales. The next closest competitor is Windows Phone, which is in third place with 4.6 percent of the sales. But Windows also gained nearly a whole percentage point year-over-year.
T-Mobile Playing Catch Up
"The highly anticipated release of the iPhone on T-Mobile has benefited iOS in the latest three-month period, though it has not yet impacted T-Mobile's share in the market," said Dominic Sunnebo, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech global consumer insight director.
Indeed, the firm reports little movement within the carriers. Verizon is still leading smartphone sales at 34.6 percent. AT&T is second with 29 percent. Sprint is third with 12.7 percent. T-Mobile remains in fourth place with 10.1 percent, which is of down 3.4 percent year-over-year.
But T-Mobile's fortunes could soon shift with the iPhone in its camp and the Metro PCS acquisition. For the three months ending May 2013, the iPhone 5 was the best-selling smartphone at T-Mobile, despite the fact that it came out in the middle of the sales period in April. And iPhone sales accounted for 31 percent of T-Mobile's smartphone sales over this period. While this is lower than AT&T and Verizon, which accounted for 60.5 percent and 43.8 percent, respectively.
T-Mobile's Winning Streak
"iOS' strength on T-Mobile appears to be the ability to attract first time smartphone buyers, upgrading from a feature phone. Of T-Mobile consumers who bought an iOS device since it launched on the carrier, 53 percent had previously owned a feature phone, well above the market average of 45 percent of iOS owners who previously owned a feature phone," said Sunnebo. "Furthermore, of T-Mobile customers planning to change device within the coming year, 28 percent plan to upgrade to an iPhone for their next device."
We asked Michael Disabato, managing vice president of network and telecom at Gartner, for his views on the shifting market shares. He told us these types of reports only tell part of the story. Android has many more devices on the market. Apple iOS is still "killing it" in the U.S.
"Until recently, I had four places where you can buy an iPhone. I hate Verizon. I am worried about Sprint going out of business and AT&T stinks. Now all of the sudden I can go get a GSM phone from T-Mobile, which is what I want in the first place," Disabato said.
"And T-Mobile has better service plans and a better network than AT&T. And what's best phone they've got on sale right now? It's the iPhone, not an Android. So consumers are buying it. Some AT&T customers moving over to T-Mobile and buying more iPhones."