Apple widens U.S. lead over Samsung, makes ground on Google!

Apple iPhone 5

Research firm comScore reported Thursday that a survey of of the United States market for smartphones during the month of February 2013 has revealed Apple’s iPhone widening its lead over second-ranked Samsung, which went up one percentage point to grab a 21.3 percent share of US-owned smartphones during the three month average period ending February 2013. In other words and in another data point proving Apple doomsayers need to re-run their spreadsheets!

During the same timeframe, Apple’s has gone up from 35.9 percent in November 2012 to 38.9 percent of U.S. smartphone subscribers in February 2013, an increase of 3.9 percentage points. The good news doesn’t stop here: Apple’s iOS mobile operating system which powers all iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices, increased 3.9 percentage points to 38.9 percent, matching Apple’s aforementioned smartphone devices share.

comScore (US smartphone vendors, 201302)

Google’s Android platform, available on numerous devices from dozens of manufacturers, still ranked as the top smartphone platform with a healthy 51.7 percent market share in February 2013, but it dropped two percentage points from 53.7 percent market share in November 2012…

Per comScore data, BlackBerry ranked third with 5.4 percent in mobile OS share while Microsoft (3.2 percent) and Symbian (0.5 percent) continue to be rounding errors.

According to independent analyst Horace Dediu, the numbers don’t mean people are abandoning Android. “To be clear, Android is not losing users, but they are gaining far fewer than iOS,” he wrote on Twitter.

US mobile platform net user gains (Asymco, comScore February 2013)

In terms of top smartphone vendors, in addition to the #1 Apple (38.9 percent) and #2 Samsung (21.3 percent), HTC came in third with a single-digit share of 9.3 percent, while Google-owned Motorola and LG rounded up the top five list with their respective 8.4 percent and 6.8 percent share.

All told, researchers estimate that the United States had some 133.7 million smartphone owners. Growth, however, is notably slowing and was pegged at an estimated eight percent compared to comScore’s November 2012 data.

comScore (US mobile OS share, 201302)

The smartphone industry appears to be saturated elsewhere as well, with today’s news of France Telecom complaining about a slowdown European carriers are feeling over belt-tightening amid the continued fragility of the economy there.

CEO Stephane Richard, who runs France Telecom, warns “there are fewer early adopters”so selling a phone for $600 is “getting more and more difficult.”

“Customers are more focused on price,” he told Bloomberg Businessweek. “Except for a few hundred thousand people who will buy the latest iPhone – except for that category of people – the majority of the market will be difficult.”

US Smartphone adoption (Asymco 001, February 2013, comScore data)
US smartphone penetration rate chart via Asymco.

comScore data highlights his point: the U.S. smartphone market is obviously peaking with a 57 percent mobile market penetration, although we’re obviously still far from the saturation point as the remaining 43 percent non-smartphone owners upgrade to their first smart device.

Apple moves age ratings atop App Store pages

App Store (age ratings, teaser)

Following a series of privacy-related kerfuffles related to Apple’s App Store, objectionable content and unauthorized or unintentional in-app purchases, the company has been gradually rolling out the enhancements designed to protect users from unwanted costs, pornography and other objectionable content. The latest tweak involves app pages viewed on iDevices.

Going forward, age ratings are displayed more prominently, right below the app’s description when browsing the App Store on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices…

The change (hat tip to Darmar) is a subtle yet important one. As you can see in the example of the Twitter for iPhone app, the 4+ age rating is now rendered at the top of the app’s App Store page, right below its name, rather than being buried at the bottom as before

App Store (age ratings, screenshot 001)

The new layout now matches up nicely with desktop iTunes, as depicted below.

App Store (age ratings, screenshot 002)

Apple prides itself with curating content to shield users from pornography, malware and other material that could tarnish its brand and potentially open door to class-action lawsuits of all kinds.

The Why iPad and Why iPhone web pages, for example, read (emphasis mine):

The more apps, music, movies, TV shows, and books you download to your iPad, the better it gets. With iPad, all that content is available from one source: Apple.

The iTunes Store is the world’s largest and most trusted entertainment store. And the App Store is home to over 300,000 iPad apps — all reviewed by Apple to guard against malware.

Other mobile platforms have a myriad of fragmented store options, resulting in availability issues, developer frustration, and security risks.

One could always argue that Apple should have long introduced these tweaks rather than react to media pressure.

Case in point: Twitter’s recently released Vine app featured porn content in the Editor’s Pick, a flaw attributed to a “human error” which prompted an immediate update which added the 17+ age rating to the software, a bump up from the previous 12+ age rating.

The otherwise awesome 500px premium photography app wasn’t that lucky.

After finding that the in-app search feature might produce some candid shots of naked men and women, Apple’s review team yanked the software from the App Store, prompting the app’s makers to appease to Apple by tweaking the feature in order to ensure that users wouldn’t be unwillingly exposed to objectionable content.

Similarly, Apple has added in-app purchase warnings to freemium apps after parents complained their children ratcheted up monster iTunes bills without even realizing they were buying additional features through in-app purchases.

Prior to iOS 4.3, the App Store would give users a 15-minute window after password authentication to freely make in-app purchases. It was meant to streamline the experience, but after receiving complaints from angry parents, it changed it.

The iPhone maker recently settled an in-app purchasing lawsuit by agreeing to pay eligible class members with a $5 iTunes gift card or the same amount in cash. The company also said it would offer a full refund to those users who spent more than $30.