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by Darrell Etherington

For the first time in the history of comScore’s MobiLens U.S. mobile market share report, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has come in second overall among handset OEMs. Apple grew its U.S. market share by 1.5 percentage points from 16.3 to 17.8 percent in the three-month period ending October 2012, according to the report. During the same period, Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) also saw its share grow, but only by 0.7 percentage points, from 25.6 to 26.3 percent. Apple seems to have begun narrowing the gap on the back of the iPhone 5, which went on sale in the U.S. towards the middle of the period covered by comScore’s latest report.

Apple climbed to second over LG, which saw a dip of 0.8 percentage points from 18.4 to 17.6 percent during the period. Motorola and HTC rounded out the top five, both experiencing slight drops and finishing the quarter with 11 and 6 percent of the market, respectively. Another key metric comScore found, and one which helps explain what finally pushed Apple into second place, is nearly 52 percent of all subscribers in the U.S. were on smartphones, up 6 percent from the previous quarter. Apple only sells smartphones, so its fortunes rising in lockstep with the decreasing popularity of feature phones makes perfect sense.

As mentioned, Apple also released the iPhone 5 during the quarter covered by this report. We’ve already seen from Kantar Worldpanel that the iPhone 5 propelled Apple back to the top of the U.S. smartphone charts, and it’s likely that device is also the reason Apple now comes in at number two overall among handset makers of all stripes.

Platform market share still shows Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) with a commanding lead, and one which grew during the period, from 52.2 percent of subscribers to 53.6 percent. Apple also gained, rising 0.9 percentage points from 33.4 percent to 34.3 percent, while RIM was the biggest loser among the top five with a decline of 1.7 percentage points. Microsoft and Symbian round out the top five, both with minor drops in overall share.

The next quarter will be an interesting one to watch for. It covers November through January, which means that we’ll see the holiday effect on all OEMs. It also should include LG’s sales of the Nexus 4 device, which seems to be remarkably popular, or at least in very short supply. Depending on how LG allocates supply among its Optimus G and Nexus devices, we could see it claw back into second, since the gap is still quite narrow, but it has to contend with Apple’s holiday iPhone sales, which are generally very strong.

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Source: Apple Gains On Samsung In U.S. Mobile Phone Market Share, Lands 2nd Overall For 1st Time