Capping off a year that saw smartphones take over the U.S. handset market, Nielsen is offering up a chart-laden roundup of some of 2012's biggest statistical stories in the mobile and digital arenas.
It was actually early in 2012 that smartphone owners became the majority of U.S. mobile subscribers for the first time, according to Nielsen, which reported in May that smartphone owners had grown from 47.8 percent of all mobile subscribers in December 2011 to 50.4 percent in March 2012.
By the third quarter of 2012, smartphone owners represented 56 percent of all U.S. mobile subscribers, according to the research firm.
Unsurprisingly, that means Google and Apple are doing pretty well these days. Those two companies combined for an 87 percent share of the U.S. smartphone operating system market in the third quarter, with Google's Android running 52 percent of smartphones and Apple's iPhone-exclusive iOS accounting for 35 percent. Those numbers dwarf Research in Motion's third-place BlackBerry OS (7 percent) and Microsoft's fourth-place Windows Phone (2 percent).
Nielsen's listings of the top 10 apps for iPhones and Android phones also yields some interesting data. The No. 1 iPhone app in 2012 in terms of unique users was Maps with an average of 32.4 million users per month from January through October, according to the research firm.
But with September's release of iOS, Apple notoriously switched out the dedicated Google Maps app with its own in-house Maps app. So which Maps are we talking about in the Nielsen report? A spokesperson told PCMag on Thursday that for most of 2012, the Maps app tracked by the research firm was Google's but for several weeks at the tail-end of the review period, both Google Maps and Apple Maps were charted and treated as a combined Maps app in the study.
Given the backlash against Apple for switching out Google Maps with iOS 6, it will be interesting to see what happens to those numbers going forward, the spokesperson noted, especially in the period after iOS 6 was released but before Apple greenlighted a dedicated Google Maps app for the iPhone just last week.
Rounding out the top 10 iPhone apps this year were Facebook with 28.6 million unique users per month, YouTube (22.6 million), Stocks (21.1 million), Weather (20.5 million), Facebook Messenger (10.5 million), The Weather Channel (10.4 million), Twitter (9.7 million), Pandora Radio (9.6 million), and Instagram (6.9 million).
Meanwhile, the top two Android apps in 2012 were Google Search and Gmail, each with more than 44 million average unique users per month, followed by Facebook (42.4 million), Google Maps (42.0 million), YouTube (32.2 million), Pandora Radio (11.6 million), Twitter (10.7 million), Adobe Reader (10.4 million), Advanced Task Killer (9.6 million), and The Weather Channel (9.0 million).
Among the top 10 apps for the two mobile platforms, Facebook Messenger saw the most growth (544 percent year-over-year) with iPhone users while Twitter (122 percent) was the big gainer on Android. Just two top 10 apps saw declining usage in 2012 as compared with the previous year—YouTube, which declined by 4 percent on the iPhone in terms of average monthly usuers, and Advanced Task Killer, which dropped by 11 percent on Android phones.
Nielsen also serves up other digital rankings in its year-end report, including the top U.S. Web brands for 2012. You can check out those stats at the Nielsen blog, but here's a hint: Google and Facebook feature pretty prominently.