IPhone breathing down neck of Android in U.S.

The iPhone 4S, along with cheaper older models, has helped Apple (s aapl) close the distance on Google’s Android,(s goog) drawing within a few percentage points in recent smartphone sales market share in the U.S., according to the NPD Group. In a CES telecom fact sheet, the research firm said that iOS has zoomed up to 43 percent of sales in October and November, compared with 26 percent in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Android’s share dropped from a high of 60 percent in the third quarter to 47 percent in October and November.

The results affirm again that Android and iOS are in a two-horse race that has gotten tighter with the release of the iPhone 4S. It’s unclear how many phones Apple sold in the final quarter of 2011, but some estimates are coming in as high as 35 million units. NPD said that Apple held the top three spots in device sales, with the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS leading the way, ahead of the Samsung Galaxy S II 4G, the Samsung Galaxy S and the HTC Inspire 4G.
Research In Motion (s rimm) continued its downward trend, with the BlackBerry OS’ falling from 8 percent in the third quarter to 6 percent in October and November. No other operating system emerged to challenge the big two at the end of last year.
NPD also said that two out of every three phones sold in October and November were smartphones, up from 59 percent in the third quarter. The market for basic phones has dwindled to just 15 percent, while messaging phones represented 18 percent of sales. The results show that the cell phone market is fast becoming a smartphone market and the appetite for “dumb phones” is evaporating. The push toward smartphones is helping Google, Apple and Samsung, which are benefiting from the desire of consumers to carry mobile computers in their pockets.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Banamine