US Q3 handset market: 80% smart and Apple has over half

With T-Mobile USA reporting Q3 results yesterday, the last of the 'big 4' US operators, which have around 90% of the market, have now given us a pretty complete picture of the US handset market. The three that carry the iPhone report iPhone unit sales, and all except Sprint report total (postpaid retail) handset sales and the smart/dumb split as well: Sprint gives enough hints to make a reasonable estimate. Here are the numbers:


A couple of observations:

  • 22.6m phones were sold, of which 9.3m were iPhones and 8.7m other smartphones
  • Smartphones are now 80% of run-rate sales
  • The iPhone is over half of smartphone sales. Adding the remaining 10% from smaller carriers would take this down a point or two
  • iPhone  dominance is very constant: this quarter contains both a dip in sales before the iPhone 5 launch and a spike afterwards, but the iPhone has had these levels of share for the last year. 
  • We don't have equivalent data for Prepay, which is maybe 10% of the US market (much lower than in most other markets) - this will be skewed towards featurephones and cheap Android handsets, but not enough to change the overall picture.

In other words, Android has over 75% of the global smartphone market, but just under 50% of the US market.

The interesting analytical problem is that these figures are very different from those from surveys of the install base (by Comscore and others), which suggest that iPhone share is more like a third of US smartphones. Yet the iPhone has been at or around 50% of sales for almost 2 years. Either the surveys are wrong or the iPhone has a significantly higher replacement cycle - despite being on the same two-year contracts as Android. Puzzling.