Market research firm Strategy Analytics said that in Q4 of 2012 Apple became the number one mobile phone -- not smartphone -- vendor in the United States. This is the first time Apple has achieved this rank, with a record 34 percent market share and 17.7 million units shipped.
In second place was Samsung, with a 32.3 percent market share and 16.8 million handsets shipped. Remember, this is overall cell phone sales, not smartphone sales, and this is the first time that Apple has overtaken Samsung in the U.S. market.
That rank was good for only Q4 2012, though. Looking at all of 2012, Samsung still shipped the most handsets, with 53 million units shipped easily besting Apple’s 43.7 million units. It's possible that the iPhone 5 made its presence fully known in Q4. The iPhone 5 was introduced in September.
However, past iPhone introductions have not seen Apple overtake Samsung before, so this is a significant breakthrough for Apple.
Overall, Strategy Analytics said, U.S. mobile phone shipments grew 4 percent annually from 50.2 million units in Q4 2011 to 52.0 million in Q4 2012. Over the entire year, though, the market contracted: U.S. mobile phone shipments fell 11 percent from 186.8 million units in 2011 to 166.9 million in 2012.
Strategy Analytics theorized that economic uncertainty and tighter carrier upgrade policies led to its previously reported drop in shipments in the first three quarters, and thus an overall drop for the year.