43% of recent U.S. smartphone buyers bought iPhone

An iPhone next to an Android phone

Nielsen has wrapped up their latest market research data, and in the three months leading up to February, 43% of U.S. smartphone buyers got an iPhone. By comparison, 48% bought an Android phone, and 5% picked up a BlackBerry. Nielsen has also concluded that smartphone penetration in the U.S. has reached 49.7%, nearly overtaking feature phones. At the same time last year, smartphone penetration was still at 36%. Woo, progress.

I would be curious to see these kinds of figures for other major international markets. I can only imagine that feature phones are still huge in India, and most Japanese "feature" phones have specs comparable to our smartphones. At least for Android handsets, cost is becoming less of a barrier in emerging markets, but I have a hard time imagining Apple offering an affordable entry-level iPhone to displace feature phone usage.

Quick show of hands - how many of you still have friends with feature phones? Have you tried convincing them to upgrade? Why are they holding out? And then, just for fun, jump into our forums and let us know what phone you had before making the switch to iPhone.

Source: Nielsen

Simon Sage

Editor-at-very-large at Mobile Nations, gamer, giant.

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Reader comments

43% of recent U.S. smartphone buyers bought iPhone

20 Comments

The people I know who still have feature phones keep them because they a) only care about calling and SMS, and b) need (or at least say they need) multiple day battery life.

Most of my friends and family members are using smart phones(iPhones and Blackberries). My youngest son will be getting the iPhone 4S this summer. He's been using my jailbroken original iPhone and deserves the upgrade. Apple's new iPhone line up and pricing strategy is working. Gradually take market share from the competition and continue grabbing mobile profit share as well (currently at a whopping 75%) will put the squeeze on the competition. Those of us with blinders off can clearly see where this is going.

Statistics still say that more Androids are bought, but I just do not see that in my life. So many people I know have an iPhone, and if they didn't, they switch to iPhone, whether from a feature phone, Blackberry, or Android. I know two people who recently bought the Galaxy Nexus, but my other friends on Android have had it for a while now. I would love to see the geographic distribution of smart phones, because it must be according to the area.

iPhone is a hardware, Android is a software. Android is on Multiple phones from the high pricey Nexus to the cheapest stuff that Boost Mobile sells. iPhone is just (1) phone that will dominate any single Android based phone on the market. Now if Nielson compared iOS to Android, iOS would destroy it as well because there are Millions of iPads, iPhone Generations & iPods that run iOS.
Notice, Nielson did Android (Software) to iPhone (Hardware). Its just a one sided review that was conducted incorrectly...

The study compared smartphones running different OSes. Nielson compared Android smartphones (hardware) to iPhone (or iOS smartphones, still hardware) to BB smartphones (hardware), etc. Apple made a choice to have only one version of their smartphone produced each year. That choice is not hurting them. Even if it were it's no reason to call fowl play just because other companies have decided on a different model.

I think that statement is absolutely false. I think that iOS focuses on great user friendly software while high end android phones focus on hardware to sell their phones. Ex: larger screens, amoled displays, more ram, lte radios.

I personally see more Android phones in my circles, mostly Moto, Samsung and HTC. Trying to judge sells off of what you see is pretty useless. There are so many Android variants you wouldn't even recognize a phone as Android unless you took a look at the OS, whereas iPhones are very easy to identify from a distance.

Everyone I know that still has a feature phone says the same thing; they don't want to pay for or can't afford the data plans.

Give me a 4" screen on the next iPhone and I'll be a buyer. Love iOS, but my aging eyes have gotten used a 4.5" AMOLED screen and my wife's iPhone looks awful small in comparison.

The folks that I know: that don't have a smartphone don't want to pay for data or would otherwise be very light users. Blackberry owners are all sponsored as Corporate Standard. Android owners are all Anti-Apple, or executed before Verizon and Sprint had the iPhone, or were interest in two-for-one price deals and other deep discounts.
Don't know anyone with a WebOs or MS based device. Dead.

isn't the iphone 3gs the entry level phone? it's $0 with contract at AT&T. Can't get much cheaper than that, unless you want prepaid.
If you want prepaid, you can get a used iphone 3gs for $150 or an iPhone 4 for $250 on ebay and use AT&T's pay as you go plan (10 cents per minute and cheap, though limited data plans). That's what I do and spend less than $12/month.

Looks like we will be waiting until the iPhone 5 now until iOS can overtake Android smartphones, or is it the 5s? Maybe the 6.

Interesting take. How many of those Android OS phones will it take to keep their "lead"?
Twenty, thirty, and will it count the Buy 1 Get Five Free models?

Haha, yes: My mom, dad, stepmom, brother, and sister. I will give my stepmom credit, she wants a smart phone but dad grumbles about the plan pricing. The rest of them will likely not upgrade. Other than my sister, none of them text and all of them can barely work the phone book in their "dumb phone" so they don't have to remember everyone's numbers. I'm not going to hate on my folks too much. They grew up in the age of party lines. Anyone else even know what that is? :)

My 73 year old mother has a feature phone. All she did was make phone calls until she learned how to text a week ago. She doesn't use Internet. She typically keeps a feature phone until it dies. She's had this one for about 8 years. That's about it. Everyone else I know has BB, Android, or iPhone.

All my family has been on a smart phone for years now. At one point we all had iPhones but now all but me are on android as we switched networks to save money and the buy 1 get one free sale caught their eye. For myself it was a chance to go from a iPhone 4 to the 4s and I couldn't let Siri stay in that box without me to care for her lol!