NEW YORK: US smartphone sales are likely to reach a record high in the last quarter of 2011, new data from AT&T suggests.

The nation's largest mobile network operator said that strong demand for the latest Apple iPhone, the 4S, had driven its overall sales for the category to 6m units across October and November.

By way of comparison, AT&T's previous quarterly record, set in Q4 2010, stands at 6.1m units.

Over the last few months, a range of new smartphones have been launched in the US, including the 4S and BlackBerry's Bold 9900.

AT&T also plans to launch a total of five Android-powered devices during the last quarter of the year.

Addressing the UBS Media and Communications conference in New York, John Stephens, the company's chief financial officer, said: "We expected this to be one of our strong[est] smartphone sales quarters ever.

"What we didn't know was that we would nearly break our smartphone sales record in just the first two months of the quarter."

BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk predicts that AT&T's smartphone sales will reach 8.7m for the quarter, with demand picking up further in December as consumers buy the devices as festive gifts.

Of this total, a majority (5.3m) will be iPhones, Piecyck added.

The new AT&T figures fall broadly in line with international trends. Figures unveiled by Gartner last month indicated that global smartphone sales rose 42% over the year to the third quarter of 2011.

But the Gartner report also shows a divergence in the popularity of smartphone platforms between the US and other markets. Android-powered phones were seen by Gartner as having doubled their market share over the 12-month period, going from 25.3% to 52.5%.

But iPhone's global share dropped, falling from 16.6% to 15%.

Data sourced from Bloomberg/Financial Times/Barron's/Gartner; additional content by Warc staff