iPhone laggards help Apple close the gap on Android

After a relatively tepid launch for the iPhone 5s, Apple users have embraced the iPhone 6 across the globe, nowhere more so than in the UK and Australia, according to Kantar.

A large number of iPhone users who skipped the 5s launch have returned to the market in force, allowing Apple to close the gap on market leader Android, according to the latest instalment of the Kantar Worldpanel smartphone OS market share survey for the three months until the end of November 2014.

Android and iOS are now neck and neck in Australia, the survey said, with Android sitting on 45 percent and iOS 0.1 percentage points behind. A similar situation exists in the United States, where Android is ahead by a single percentage point, on 48.4 percent versus 47.4 percent. Compared to the same time in 2013, Apple was up 9.9 percentage points in Australia, and 4.3 percentage points in the US.

The largest shift towards Apple occurred in the United Kingdom, where Apple was up 12.2 percentage points over the past year. Overall, Android is still ahead in the UK, with 49.7 percent of the market compared to 42.5 percent for iOS.

In all three nations, this month represents the first time that Android's market share has dipped below 50 percent for well over a year. According to Kantar, Android was last below 50 percent in March 2013 in the US, March 2012 in the UK, and December 2011 in Australia.

Kantar said that much of the jump in Apple purchases for Australia and the UK was as a result of the expiration of 24-month contracts, and Apple offering larger devices. Figures for Australia showed that 88 percent of the purchasers for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were previously Apple users.

"The longer the new iPhone models are on the market, the more their appeal will extend beyond Apple's loyal customers," said Dominic Sunnebo, strategic insight director, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. "For now, customer switching from Android to iOS remains stable, at 18 percent."

Apple has traditionally experienced a large bump in market share at the latter end of year, before falling away over the next nine months.

iOS vs Android Kantar trend to Nov 2014
(Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet)

Within the Android ecosystem, Kantar said it saw declines for Samsung across Europe and the US, while Motorola increased its market share due to its Moto X and Moto G handsets.

In China, despite the introduction of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Android continued to sit above the 80 percent mark, up 1.8 percentage points compared to last year.

"Xiaomi remains the biggest contributor to Android's success, as it averaged 30.2 percent of sales in the three months ending November, an astonishing 18 percentage-point rise over 2013," said Kantar's Tamsin Timpson.

"Apple sales saw a small increase of 1.1 percentage points, which brought Apple's share of the smartphone market in urban China to 18.1 percent. China Mobile remained Apple's main channel, with sales through the largest Chinese carrier accounting for 63 percent of Apple's overall sales."