October 10, 2013, 3:53 PM

Apple is gaining on Android in the smartphone race

ComScore also reveals the 15 most popular mobile sites and apps.

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While devices running Google Inc.’s Android mobile operating system continue to dominate the smartphone market, Apple Inc.’s iPhone is gaining ground, according to the latest smartphone market share figures from web and mobile measurement firm comScore Inc.

Android devices accounted for 51.6% of smartphones in use in August 2013, down 0.8 percentage points from 52.4% in May 2013, comScore finds. Apple had 40.7% of the market, up 1.5 points from 39.2%; BlackBerry, dying a long, slow death, had 4.0%, down 0.8 points from 4.8%; Windows had 3.2%, up 0.2 points from 3.0%; and the also-ran Symbian had 0.3%, down 0.1 points from 0.4%, comScore says. Remaining percentages come from other, smaller mobile platforms.

It should be noted that Apple’s gains came before the mobile giant introduced its latest smartphones, the iPhone 5s and the lower-priced iPhone 5c. History has shown Apple surges in market share when it debuts new iPhones, so Apple’s share may continue to rise. Apple reports selling 9 million iPhone 5s and 5c units combined in the first three days they were available, a record for iPhone debuts.

Further, while Android is the most popular mobile operating system, the iPhone is the No. 1 smartphone. Apple holds 40.7% of market share when gauged by manufacturer, comScore says. The next closest competitor is Samsung with 24%. There are only three different iPhones on sale today; with Android, there are myriad smartphones, with differing versions of Android, that account for its lead in share by operating system.

Will Apple’s iPhone overtake Android smartphones in market share by mobile operating system? That is difficult to predict, but pricing will be key to how the smartphone market shakes out, comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni tells Internet Retailer.

“If Android devices remain substantially lower priced than the iPhone, it will be challenging for the iPhone to overtake Android in terms of market share,” Fulgoni says.

Apple last month responded to this very challenge with the debut of the iPhone 5c, which is priced at $99 with a two-year wireless contract. What’s more, a price war over the iPhone 5c broke out this week: Best Buy Co. Inc. is selling the device for $50 with a two-year contract; RadioShack Corp. $49 with a two-year contract; and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. $45 with a two-year contract. Where the iPhone used to be the Cadillac of smartphones, available only to those willing to drop at least $200 for a phone, at $45 it now is within reach of a far wider audience. It remains to be seen how many consumers will bite.

But even coming in second in market share, the iPhone remains the most important smartphone in mobile commerce, retailers and research firms say.

“While Android is the more popular smartphone operating system today, comScore data show that the consumers who buy the iPhone have higher incomes—for example, 58% of iPhone owners have annual income of at least $75,000 compared to only 40% of Android owners—and are more likely than Android owners to use their device to buy a product or service—for instance, 24.3% of iPhone owners report having made a purchase using their device compared to 18.4% of Android owners,” Fulgoni says. “As such, iPhone users are particularly important to retailers.”

145 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones in August 2013, 60.8% of the consumers with mobile phonest, comScore says. The mobile commerce sites and apps of Amazon.com Inc. and eBay Inc. are among their favorite haunts, comScore finds. The following are their favorite mobile destinations, measured by combined site and app traffic, followed by the percentage of smartphone owners the mobile destinations reach, according to comScore:

  • Google Sites, 92.2%
  • Facebook, 84.6%
  • Yahoo Sites, 83.2%
  • Amazon Sites, 68.6%
  • AOL, 50.7%
  • Apple, 50.4%
  • Microsoft Sites, 46.0%
  • Wikimedia Foundation Sites, 45.3%
  • Pandora.com, 43.2%
  • eBay, 37.4%
  • Turner Digital, 35.2%
  • CBS Interactive, 34.8%
  • Glam Media, 33.0%
  • The Weather Company, 30.0%
  • Twitter, 29.1%
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