Months after the release of its iPhone 6 line, Apple has regained a title it has not held since 2012: Its phones now outsell Android phones in the U.S.market. And yes, that includes all Android original equipment manufacturers.
But iPhones only won by the barest of margins–0.1%, as Apple sold 47.7% of the market compared to Android devices’ 47.6%. The numbers come from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, the research division within advertising titan WPP, and cover sales in the fourth quarter of 2014.
The obvious cause: The release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus along with the less-expensive 5C and 5S gave Apple a superior range of product price points compared to Android on the premium end of the smartphone spectrum, said Carolina Milanesi, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech’s chief of research.
This trend continued in Europe, with iPhones gaining 6.2% of market share and Android devices losing 3.2%–though Android still dominates in Europe, with 66.1% of the market. As TechCrunch points out, Windows Phones’ failure to break into the northern European market is something of a surprise given Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia; Windows Phones have 9% of that market, declining one percentage point from last year.
But China is most exciting for Apple: While Android still retains 77% of the Chinese smartphone market, Apple has been creeping up, growing its share to 21.5% this year, from 19% last year, according to Tamsin Timpson, strategic insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Asia. And while the U.S. and Europe smartphone markets are saturated, much of China’s consumer base is just now entering the smartphone game: One-quarter of Chinese consumers who bought an iPhone in the last three months were buying their first smartphone.
While Apple and Android battle to snag new customers in China, Brazil, and Mexico, where many people are just beginning to own smartphones, the two companies struggle in the U.S. and Europe to retain market loyalty:
“As the opportunity to attract first-time smartphone buyers in developed economies diminishes, retaining loyal customers is becoming as important as winning them over from competing platforms,” Milanesi concluded. “Apple’s average customer loyalty of 87% across the US and Europe certainly looks promising.”