Report: T-Mobile overtakes Sprint in Q1 as No. 3 U.S. smartphone buyer

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS), along with its MetroPCS prepaid brand, surpassed Sprint (NYSE: S) and Sprint's MVNOs as the third-largest U.S. carrier in terms of smartphone volumes purchased in the first quarter, according to a new research report.

According to Counterpoint's Market Monitor, T-Mobile is now closely behind AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) in terms of smartphones. Counterpoint's Neil Shah, a former analyst with Strategy Analytics, wrote in a post that T-Mobile's "uncarrier" strategy "is surely working for the carrier, attracting a wave of new smartphone subscribers." In the first quarter T-Mobile launched a program to pay off the Early Termination Fees of customers who switch to T-Mobile and traded in their phones, which could have boosted the carrier's numbers.

Sprint said it had retail smartphone sales of just under 5 million in the first quarter, while T-Mobile said it sold a record 6.9 million smartphones in the quarter.

The report noted that three-quarters of smartphones shipped during the first quarter were LTE smartphones. Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Samsung Electronics combined captured more than 70 percent of the LTE shipments.

Other stats from the report were less surprising. Apple and Samsung were the two largest U.S. smartphone vendors in the quarter, according to the report. Together they captured more than two-thirds of the smartphone market in the period.

Apple captured around half of the smartphone sales at Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T in the first quarter, the report said, and 36 percent at Sprint. Samsung was the largest smartphone provider at T-Mobile, with 38 percent (Apple had 24 percent at T-Mobile).

Overall, TCL-Alcatel became the fourth largest handset supplier and fifth-largest smartphone supplier in U.S. in the quarter, mainly by taking share away from Huawei, the report said.

For more:
- see this Counterpoint site
- see this TechCrunch article
- see this AppleInsider article
- see this PhoneArena article

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Article updated May 23 to clarify that the figures refer to smartphone purchases in the first quarter.