A new report from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech says that Android devices as a group outsold the iPhone in the U.S. during the three months ending January 2013, with their share of total sales rising to nearly 50%.

The report, based on the results of Kantar's ongoing consumer panel research, saw U.S. Android sales rise a little more than 6% compared to the same period one year ago, while iOS lost just less than 5%, finishing at about 46%. Sprint customers were particularly likely to buy Android devices during the studied time frame, according to the study - to the tune of 72% of all smartphone sales.

Kantar says this was due in part to a holiday price break on the popular Samsung Galaxy S III, which sold for as little as $99 on that carrier. On average, Sprint smartphone buyers paid $95 for Android devices, compared to $146 for iPhones. The previous period's figures were much closer, according to the report, at $127 and $130, respectively.)

Sprint remained in third place among carriers in smartphone sales at 14%, while AT&T took second with 28% and Verizon led with 35%.

Kantar's findings tallied roughly with a recent comScore report on overall market share, which found that Android users made up 53% of all U.S. smartphone subscribers, compared to iOS' 36%, during the fourth quarter of 2012.

Android could easily expand upon its gains in the near future, as the highly anticipated Samsung Galaxy S IV is set for release in mid-March, the company confirmed this weekend, and new devices featured at the Mobile World Congress hit the market.

Email Jon Gold at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.