Google's Android OS may have started as the underdog in 2008, when Apple's iPhone had already achieved dominance in the U.S., but in 2012 it's the leader in handset sales in much of the world.

Research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech reports that Android devices make up at least half of all smartphone sales in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Australia.

During a 12-week period ending June 10, Android's share of smartphone sales ranged from a low of 49.6 percent in Italy to a high of 84.1 percent in Spain.

Android even dominates in the U.S. despite falling by 6.8 percent due in part to the release of the iPhone 4S and the iPhone's jump to Sprint, according to ComTech.

Nevertheless, Android handsets comprised 50.2 percent of smartphone sales in the U.S. (though that number is down from 57 percent the previous year), while the iPhone jumped 8.7 percent to take 37.4 percent of the market.

Android smartphones are cheaper, drive loyalty

Android sales growth this year has been largely driven by "dumb" or "feature" phone users who want to upgrade to a smartphone without spending more than $80, says ComTech's Consumer Insight Director Dominic Sunnebo.

"Android handsets currently offer an easier platform to enable these consumers to upgrade, as many first-time smartphone consumers state 'price of handset' and 'multimedia capabilities' as their main reason for choosing an Android device," Sunnebo said in the report.

"Our data shows that Android has a higher share of those consumers spending under £50 ($77) on buying their handset across the vast majority of countries we cover."

ComTech also reports that prepaid smartphone sales are up in the UK and other countries, driven by the success of Android devices including the Samsung Galaxy Ace and Samsung Galaxy Y among young buyers.

"It's important to understand the added value that these first time smartphone consumers bring to carriers and brands," Sunnebo said.

"Smartphone consumers are much more loyal to their brand of handset and carrier than feature phone consumers, highlighting the importance of capturing feature phone owners when they are starting to look to change their handset."

Via PC Mag