Most market share studies indicate Android is dominating the mobile OS landscape, but one study from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech suggests otherwise. It reports that Apple's iOS was the top-selling smartphone platform in the U.S. during the run-up to Christmas.

Upgrades helped Apple in U.S.

Kantar attributes to the rise of iOS to three factors. One is the release of the iPhone 5, since 34 percent of the users surveyed by Kantar had upgraded from a previous iPhone, and 27 percent upgraded from another smartphone.

First-time smartphone owners, representing 40 percent of new iPhone owners, helped iOS rise in market share too, the study finds. The wave of new smartphone subscribers led to iOS becoming Verizon's top-selling OS, as some 44 percent of feature phone users upgraded to an iPhone, compared to 38 percent on AT&T.

When the iPhone 5 went on sale, older models dropped in price; the iPhone 4S was priced at $99 and the iPhone 4 was free with a two-year contract. This strategy also contributed to Apple's jump in U.S. market share from 35.8 percent in November 2011 to 53.3 percent in 2012.

"The iPhone 5 has been successful this period; however, we also see that Apple's older models--the iPhone 4S and 4--have also contributed to the growing share of iOS," said Mary-Ann Parlato, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech analyst. "This is particularly the case for first-time smartphone iPhone buyers where we see the older models still selling well amongst this group."

Since the Kantar data examines only U.S. sales, Apple's rise to the top of the smartphone market share seems more of an exception, not a rule. For example, ComScore's MobiLens report from December 2012 indicates that in the U.S., Android is dominating with 53.6 percent share and Apple is a closer second, with a 34.3 percent share. The December stats paint a similar picture. Globally, IDC has found in November that Android accounted for 75 percent of smartphone shipments, while iOS has just 14.9 percent.

See also:

Apple's App Store passes 40 billion downloads milestone, 20 billion in 2012 alone
Google, Apple, Microsoft app number wars heat up
2012's final week saw record-smashing device activations, app downloads
Apple wins top score for App Store