The NPD Group has just released its latest findings for US consumer smartphone sales for Q4 2011, and it looks like first-time buyers choose Android over iOS, 57 percent to 34 percent. That number levels out when you look at all sales for the quarter, during which time Android captured 48 percent of all sales compared to Apple's 43 percent. We'd suspect that the wider range of price points and form factors offered by manufacturers of Android devices accounts for the high number of first-time buyers.

Apple, which launched the iPhone 4S a few months ago, has nothing to complain about. We've already seen the company's massive earnings for its latest fiscal quarter, and The NPD Group says that the new device was the best-selling smartphone of calendar Q4, with the 3GS, 4, and 4S combining to give the company the most handset sales of any manufacturer. It looks like the vast majority of those sales were accounted for by the newest kid on the block: according to the researchers, the 4S outsold the 4 by 75 percent, and the 3GS (which is free on contract from AT&T) five to one.

Looking past just Android and iOS, the entire smartphone market now represents 68 percent of all mobile phone sales in the US (an 18 percent increase year over year, and a 9 percent increase from Q3), with Google's and Apple's operating systems accounting for over 90 percent of those sales. While more and more may be switching to smartphones, it looks like the price of entry is increasing: for the first time in a year, the average smartphone price grew, and now stands at $143. (Verizon's propensity for selling phones for $299.99 on contract likely has something to do with that.) Finally, the top five phones for the quarter (in order) were the iPhone 4S, 4, and 3GS, followed up by the Galaxy S II and Galaxy S 4G, though we'd suspect the studies counted all US Galaxy S II carrier variants, not one specific model.