By Natasha Lomas
Apple (AAPL) took the title of largest mobile maker by volume in the U.S. in Q4 2012, according to Strategy Analytics. It said Cupertino rose to the top of the U.S. phone maker charts for the first time ever -- taking a record 34% market share and shipping an estimated 17.7 million units in the quarter. Samsung (GM:SSNLF) came second, with a 32.3% share, shipping 16.8 million smartphones. Third place went to LG -- but the company was far behind Apple and Samsung, with only a 9% share and shipments of 4.7 million units.
However, despite losing out to Apple in Q4, Samsung came out on top in the U.S. for the full year 2012. It took a 31.8% share of the market vs. Apple's 26.2%. LG took 12.3% for the full year.
Strategy Analytics said generous carrier subsidies and extensive marketing of the new iPhone 5 model helped Apple to claim the U.S. mobile crown in Q4 -- taking the title from Samsung, which had held it since 2008. Samsung still put in a good performance in the fourth quarter, according to the analyst, who noted that its market share rose five points from a year earlier. However, this increase was "not enough to hold off a surging Apple," it said.
As for LG, while it remains the third largest player in the U.S., it has struggled to compete with "an Apple and Samsung onslaught" in the high-end smartphone category, said the analyst. "LG will be aiming to fight back this year with new and improved models like the Optimus G 4G LTE," said Linda Sui, Analyst at Strategy Analytics, in a statement.
Writing in a new report on the North America mobile market, the analyst said mobile phone shipments in the U.S. grew 4% annually to reach 52 million units in Q4, up from 50.2 million units in Q4 2011. Growth was driven by "robust demand" for 4G smartphones and 3G feature phones.
Despite a "solid" fourth quarter, the U.S. mobile maker contracted 16% in the first three quarters of 2012, which the analyst put down to economic uncertainty and tighter carrier upgrade policies. As a result, U.S. mobile phone shipments fell 11% in the full year, down from 186.8 million units in 2011 to 166.9 million in 2012.