Phone Home: The Most Popular US Cell Phones of 2016

 In Market Trends, Popular, Tech News, Trends

Last year was a busy one for the smartphone industry, from the exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7, to the new iPhone headphone jack controversy, to Google’s first play in the space. With new players joining existing pioneers in the smartphone industry, gaining market share is crucial to building a brand and product that stays popular with its users.

Brand popularity is a huge factor in driving consumer purchases, especially when it comes to cell phones. With that in mind, we studied US cell phone purchases in 2016 to see which cell phone brand and model reigned last year, across the country and individually by state. For this study, we looked at purchases across three major carriers — AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.


Why release dates matter

Our analysis showed that the three most popular cell phone brands in the US are Apple, LG and Samsung. Overall, the most purchased phone in 2016 was the Samsung Galaxy S7, which outpaced the Apple iPhone 6S by 35 percent. It’s important to note that release dates weigh heavily into brand sales within a specific timeframe. For instance, the iPhone 6S launched in September 2015, while the Samsung Galaxy S7 began accepting pre-orders in February 2016.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 reigned supreme as the most purchased phone month-to-month from February through August, only to be bumped by the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus’s release in September. The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus were the third and fourth most purchased phones in 2016, respectively. However, when comparing pre-order and launch month sales of the above three phones, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus combined outpaced the Galaxy S7 by 78%. Despite the phone model popularity of the Galaxy, this uptick in sales late in the year moved Apple ahead in being the most popular phone brand purchased for 2016.

Top 4 Most Popular Cell Phones in the US (percentage in market share)
1 Samsung Galaxy S7 – 21.3%
2 iPhone 6S – 15.7%
3 iPhone 7 – 11.8%
4 iPhone 7 Plus – 11.3%

*Market share based on top 4 most popular phones out of 119 phones available


Holiday sales crown a new leader

Both brands had even playing ground when it came to holiday sales. During the month of November, unlike the Samsung Galaxy S7, Apple phone models (iPhone 6S, 7, and 7 Plus) didn’t see a spike in purchases. However, the month of December saw a huge uptick in sales for Apple, specifically with the iPhone 7, which was the top purchased model during the holiday season.

In terms of phone model popularity on the state level, the Samsung Galaxy S7 outpaced the Apple iPhone 6S in every state with the exception of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

Top 5 Phones Purchased During 2016 Holiday Season (percentage in market share)
1 Apple iPhone 7 – 20.2%
2 Samsung Galaxy S7 – 19.4%
3 Apple iPhone 7 Plus – 17.8%
4 Apple iPhone 6S – 11.6%
5 Apple iPhone SE – 9.3%

*Market share based on top 5 most popular phones purchased during November and December, 2016 (out of 119 phones available)

Top Cell Phone Purchases – 2016



Bottom Line: Apple’s release of yet another model, combined with upcoming releases from Samsung and Google, will make for an interesting 2017 in terms of tech adoption and brand popularity. We will be anxious to revisit this study a year from now and share the findings with you.

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