Apple (s aapl) won an impressive 42.8 percent of all U.K. smartphone sales in October, based largely on the introduction of the iPhone 4S. It’s the first time since Nov. 2010 that Apple saw its share of the U.K. smartphone market grow, and the iPhone easily topped Android (s goog) devices, which grabbed 35 percent of sales for the month.
The sales stats, gathered by research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, are perhaps most impressive because Apple really only started selling its latest iPhone halfway through the month, on Oct. 14. Apple’s big month helped it grow its market share 2.8 percent versus the previous year in the quarter leading up to the end of October, climbing to 27.8 percent mostly at the expense of Android, which was down from 49.9 to 46 percent. That helped Apple climb to a second-place spot among U.K. smartphone platforms, with RIM (s rimm) falling to third place with a drop of 1.3 percentage points to 19.6 percent share.
However, Apple’s sales were mostly from inside its own camp, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech points out. Amazingly, 75 percent of those who purchased a new 4S in October had previously owned an iPhone device, and 14 percent were upgrading from the iPhone 4, which means a good percentage of them were probably buying out contracts early to get the device.
While it’s good for Apple that people who use their devices like them enough to return to the iPhone time and time again, the high rate of return customers could mean we’ll quickly see Apple’s October gains give way to Android successes on the back of devices like the new Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the first smartphone packing Ice Cream Sandwich. Then again, Apple also now has a free entry-level iPhone as well as a cheaper mid-range option, so the 4S’s success may stand a better chance of being buttressed by those other options in the longer term.
Apple’s iPhone likely isn’t done posting big sales, especially since it’s high on people’s lists in terms of ideal gifts for the holidays, but it’ll have more competition in the coming months. It’ll be interesting to see whether Apple can continue gaining back share in the face of the Android juggernaut, or whether this spike is just a one-time blip on the radar.