We've heard it from Apple, and we're hearing it from comScore again: 2011 was very, very good to Apple's smartphone business.
According to the research firm's "2012 Mobile Future in Focus" report, Apple dominated smartphone sales last year: it took the top three spots on comScore's list of the world's five top-selling smartphones of 2011. The iPhone 4 was the most purchased phone, followed by the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4S in third. This last ranking is especially impressive since the iPhone 4S's numbers were based on only two months of sales.
The other best-sellers in comScore's report were RIM's BlackBerry Curve 8530, which came in fourth, and the HTC-EVO 4G, which runs on Android and placed fifth. Android's operating system still dominates the U.S. smartphone market, however: it claims 47.3 percent of market, while Apple's iOS platform came in second with 30 percent of the market.
But the phone itself isn't the most important element U.S. smartphones buyers consider when purchasing a phone. ComScore reports that for U.S. smartphone users, the phone's operating system ranks just slightly below network quality in terms of the impact it has on their purchase decisions. Other important characteristics include app selection, cost, and the phone's music and video capabilities.
According to comScore, less than half of mobile phone owners have smartphones, meaning the coming year could be a make it or break it one for the smartphone industry as mobile companies compete for the tens of millions of feature phone owners who will likely make the switch to smartphones in the coming years.
An IDC report from 2011 suggests that Apple's standing could be in peril. While IDC predicts that Android and Windows Phone's market shares will continue to grow in the next few years, the market research firm predicted that worldwide adoption rates of Apple phones would not increase, and instead hold steady at around 15 percent through 2015.
Data in the comScore report suggests that this may be because iPhones are just too expensive. One group of people who are buying smartphones at the fastest growing rates are individuals in households at the lower end of the income spectrum. The number of people with a household income under $25,000 per year who are buying smartphones is growing at a rate of 98 percent, and this is attributed to the dropping costs of many non-Apple smartphones.
In November, NPD Group reported that smartphone prices had dropped for four consecutive quarters, and were currently $135 on average, over $60 less than a 16GB iPhone 4S and over $260 less than a 64GB 4S.