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Apple can thank the high-profile launch of last fall’s Apple iPhone 4S for iOS closing the gap on Android as the leading platform for new smartphone purchases.

According to research released this week from Nielsen, 45 percent of new smartphone owners surveyed in December said they chose an iPhone. Only 25 percent chose an iPhone a couple of months earlier in October. In addition, 57 percent of new iPhone owners surveyed in December said they purchased an iPhone 4S.

But Apple can hold off on celebrating just yet. Android-based mobile phones still hold the lead among all smartphone users, with a 46 percent penetration of owners surveyed in Q4 2011.

Other market researchers dispute these numbers. A late November report from comScore claims that Android continued dominating the iPhone throughout last year, with 47 percent of U.S. smartphone customers buying Android handsets that month, compared with just 29 percent for Apple.

Apple isn’t expected to debut its iPhone 5 until midyear at the earliest. Meanwhile, the steady release of Android handsets on all carriers continues. Tech analysts say this is one of many differences between the two products. It may also be a factor that helps Android maintain its overall lead against its rival.

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