Why Apple Needs to Accelerate the iPhone Cycle This Year

Google recently regained its lead in the U.S. smartphone market, and now the search giant's mobile platform has extended its dominance, according to the newest figures out of Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. Apple enjoyed its time on top, but gave up some share during the three months ending in February.

Microsoft continues to make progress on its goal to steal the No. 3 spot from BlackBerry , with the software giant growing its slice to 4.1% while BlackBerry's fell to just 0.7%. Of course, BlackBerry's new Z10 didn't launch in the U.S. until March, so some domestic weakness can be expected there. Investors will have to wait for the next batch of figures before determining if BlackBerry's U.S. launch helped it regain any lost ground.


3 Months Ending February 2012

3 Months Ending February 2013













U.S. smartphone sales. Source: Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. Symbian and others not shown.

Analyst Mary-Ann Parlato says much of Android's strength was thanks to aggressive price cuts of Samsung devices at Sprint Nextel , which also grew its market share of subscribers among wireless carriers. The No. 3 carrier's share of smartphone sales increased from 12.9% a year ago to 15%. It would seem that the carrier's aggressive marketing of unlimited data plans may be paying off.

The data underscores how important it is for Apple to accelerate its product cycle this year, since these figures predate the upcoming launches of high-end Android flagships like Samsung's Galaxy S4 or HTC's One.

Kantar says Motorola and Nokia only saw "slight increases" in smartphone sales. Nokia is rumored to be launching a high-end model on Verizon Wireless later this month, and Googorola's "X Phone" can't come soon enough for the search giant.

Hopefully the rumored June 20 date for the iPhone 5S unveiling turns out to be correct.

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