Apple’s iPhone 5 has helped the California-based gadget maker propel itself into the first place in the United States, topping Google’s Android in arguably the world’s most important smartphone market. Specifically, Apple’s iPhone doubled its share of US smartphone sales and now enjoys a 48.1 percent share compared to 46.7 percent for Android.

The last time Apple held the lead in the US smartphone market was after the introduction of the iPhone 4S. Market research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech announced Tuesday Google’s mobile operating system still dominates in Europe, where it holds up to 81 percent of the market share in some countries…

According to the Kantar survey:

The last time we saw iOS overtake Android in the US was when the iPhone 4S was released and Apple managed to retain its lead for three consecutive periods.

This time we predict that Apple will beat its previous high of 49.3 percent and achieve its highest ever share of the US smartphone market within the next two periods.

Apple’s share of the domestic smartphone market rose 25 percent between the 12 weeks in 2011, ending October 30 and the same period in 2012.

 

Android’s share of the US market fell more than 16 percent by comparison.


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In May, Android held 51 percent of the US smartphone market. Apple’s iOS had 30.7 percent and RIM 12.3 percent, according to ComScore. While Android fell in the US, Europe remains a stronghold for the Google operating system.

Germany remains a tough market for Apple with its share falling by 5.1 percentage points over the past year. The Samsung Galaxy S3 has taken almost a quarter of the country’s smartphone sales over the past 12 weeks to boost Android yet further.

Nokia has helped the market share of Windows increase nearly 12 percent in Europe. Nokia’s Lumia 610 is the fourth best-selling handset in Italy and the Nokia Lumia 800 is the seventh best-selling handset across Europe, according to the research firm.

 

In the US, current iPhone owners continue to be Apple’s strongest fans. Some 62 percent of iPhone 5 buyers already owned an Apple handset. Apple was also helped by consumers switching from other platforms. Android owners accounted for thirteen percent of iPhone 5 sales, while BlackBerry owners comprised six percent of iPhone 5 purchases, according to Kantar.

 

The research firm called Apple’s ability to retain customers “clearly key” to the company’s success in the US. The analyst said 92 percent of current Apple owners said they would buy an iPhone when it is time to upgrade.

While loyalty is clearly key, it is also important to make sure that new customers are attracted to your brand.

With roughly 60 percent of US iPhone 5 sales coming from existing customers and 40 percent from new consumers, Apple is achieving this at the moment – a clear sign of the strength of the brand in the US marketplace.

As for the two most visible new features of the iPhone 5 – LTE and a four-inch screen, the larger display is making an obvious impact with consumers.

“Previous KWP ComTech data has shown that bigger screens make a significant impact on the reality of how consumers actually use their device, and the latest usage data shows this is clearly the case for the iPhone 5”, Kantar noted.

But is Apple’s lead in the US smartphone market sustainable?