The iPhone become the top-selling handset in the U.S. for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to fresh data from Strategy Analytics, grabbing a 34 percent share of the overall American handset market. Apple sold 17.7 million smartphones during the period, outpacing Samsung’s 16.8 million units sold (which earned the Korean company a 32 percent market share.) The quarter saw 4 percent year-over-year growth, marking a reversal from the three previous quarters during which the market shrunk 16 percent.
Apple’s surge isn’t all that surprising considering the iPhone 5 came to market in the U.S. in late September, just a week ahead of the fourth quarter and well in advance of the brisk holiday shopping season. And as my colleague Erica Ogg notes, Apple stands very little chance of overtaking Samsung as the world’s largest smartphone vendor in 2013 unless it expands its limited lineup of iPhones or gains traction with new subscription models.
Indeed, investors don’t seem assuaged by the good fourth-quarter news, as shares of Apple remained generally flat at mid-day. There has been no shortage of rumors regarding a new iPhone, from a low-end gadget for emerging markets to a big-screen iPhone that can leverage the “phablet” wave. I think the latter is a good option here: A cheap handset wouldn’t provide the great margins Apple typically generates, and it may even tarnish a top-notch brand. But a bigger (if pricier) iPhone could find an audience of well-heeled users for whom the current model is old news.