It has been a long time coming, but it seems the UK’s mobile phone industry has finally reached tipping point, with more than half the population now owning a smartphone, compared to feature phones.

Back in November, reports abounded that half of the UK was now using smartphones as opposed to feature phones, but in fact the figure was closer to around 44%. However, perhaps fueled by the mass of smartphone sales over the Christmas period, with both iOS and Android platforms seeing a significant hike in activations 50.3% now owns a smartphone, reports Cellular News.

The latest data is derived from research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, and shows that smartphones constituted 71.4% of all mobile phone sales in the three months leading to 22 January 2012. “For the first time ever, you are now in the minority if you don’t own a smartphone,” says Dominic Sunnebo, global consumer insight director at Kantar Worldpanel. “With more people jumping on the bandwagon, there is huge opportunity for both retailers and manufacturers. However, the competition is intense.”

Whilst Android still rules the roost in the UK, with around half of all smartphones shipping with Android, Apple has increased its market share over the past year, from 21.7% to 29.1%. “Windows Phone 7 is also creeping up,” says Sunnebo, “taking over 2% of the market for the first time with the Nokia Lumia 800 taking the lion’s share. This looks set to continue with the expected launch of at least two new models at the Mobile World Congress conference. We forecast this will help it to grow its share to around 8% in the latter half of 2012.”

Predictably, Symbian’s share has fallen to less than 3%, as Nokia gradually kills the mobile OS off in favor of Windows Phone 7. We’ve previously written that Nokia’s Lumia 800 was seeing strong pre-order sales in the UK, though official figures have yet to be released. It has received a pretty good reception all round though, and Windows Phone 7 could be set to gain significant ground as it launches across more handsets in the coming year.

“One of the real positives for Microsoft Windows Phone 7 is how engaged its users appear to be with its devices,” says Sunnebo. “Eighty one per cent of handset owners have used social networking on their device in the past month, higher than both iOS & Android. Meanwhile, three quarters have used GPS, indicating that its decision to include Nokia maps for free was a price worth paying to drive user engagement.”

Of course, smartphone sales doesn’t necessarily equate to high user-engagement – it’s likely that a significant chunk of smartphone-owners still primarily use it for calling and texting. But whatever your mobile phone of choice, just remember you are now in the minority of the population if you don’t own a smartphone.