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Apple beat Samsung in Q4 as US phone market declined in 2012

Apple took the number-one position by volume for the first time

Apple topped Samsung as the leading cellphone vendor in the U.S. in the last three months of the year to become the number-one U.S. vendor by volume for the first time, according to data published on Friday by Strategy Analysis.

Apple, aided by strong demand for its iPhone 5 smartphone, shipped 17.7 million phones in the U.S. in the quarter, according to the estimate. Samsung achieved shipments of 16.8 million phones during the same period.

"Apple's success has been driven by its popular ecosystem of iPhones and App Store, generous carrier subsidies, and extensive marketing around the new iPhone 5 model," Strategy Analysis said in a research note.

That gave Apple and Samsung market shares of 34 percent and 32 percent, respectively -- so when combined, the two companies accounted for two-thirds of all mobile phones shipped in the U.S. between October and December.

LG achieved a distant third place on shipments of 4.7 million phones.

Total shipments in the quarter were up 4 percent on the same period in 2011, but for the whole year phone shipments in the U.S. totaled 167 million, down about 10 percent from 2011.

The drop was due to weak demand earlier in 2012, said Strategy Analysis.

"Despite a solid fourth-quarter performance, the US mobile phone market had previously contracted 16 percent for the first three quarters of 2012 due to economic uncertainty and tighter carrier upgrade policies," it said.

Samsung remained in the top spot in the U.S. with shipments of 53 million phones, equivalent to 32 percent of the market. Apple took second place, as it did in 2011, but managed to significantly narrow the gap with Samsung.

In all of 2012, Apple shipped 43.7 million phones for a 26 percent market share. In 2011 it had a 16 percent share.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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