There’s been no shortage of bold but overoptimistic Android-friendly forecasts in the last few months suggesting that Apple is losing the smartphone battle to its arch rival Google. However, when it comes to brand loyalty, Android devices are no-match for the Apple iPhone.
A recent GfK survey indicates that Apple users are the most loyal out of all smartphone owners. The smartphone market is booming and manufacturers are fighting hard to retain customers in wake of stiff competition and multiple alternatives. Overall, only one in four smartphone users plan to stay loyal to their operating system.
While I’m least interested in the numbers, the survey raises a couple of important questions. First, is Android’s multi-vendor multi-device strategy beginning to finally backfire by offering customers too many choices? Secondly, will Apple be able to sustain its customer loyalty in the next 5 years with a single device offering tied to few exclusive carriers or is it time to broaden its mobile portfolio? Only time will tell.
The GfK survey covered 2653 people across the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, China, and Brazil. Nearly 56 percent of smartphone owners in key global markets are keeping their “options open” about which phone they would buy next and another 37 percent plan to upgrade their devices during the next upgrade cycle. And it’s hardly surprising that a mere 25 percent plan to remain loyal to their current smartphone brand. iPhone owners are the most loyal, with 59 percent saying they plan to stick to their prized possessions in the near future.
The loyalty stats for RIM & Android are considerably lower – 35 percent and 28 percent respectively. Figures for Nokia (Symbian) and Microsoft (Windows Phone 7) are so dismal that it’s fair to label these as lack of customer loyalty. Of course, the reasons are vastly different for these two companies – while Symbian is a sinking ship, WinPho7 is yet to make a considerable impact.
Coming back to the biggies, I believe it’s high time for Apple to transform the iPhone as a “multi-carrier” device. It’s well known that iPhone is the most-loved phone and AT&T is the perhaps the most-hated carrier in the United States. And I’m sure that Jobs & co. would love to set the record straight sooner than later by offering the much-anticipated “Verizon iPhone“. I strongly believe that Apple currently has the quality while Android has the quantity (as well as some quality). If Apple can get its volume strategy right, the battle of iPhone vs. the army of Android devices offers to be a mouth-watering prospect.
I’m not suggesting that Android phone users are not happy with their phones. Android is still a very young operating system and has done an astonishing job of competing with some of the very best platforms including iOS, Blackberry OS, Symbian and Windows Phone 7.
IMO, the GfK survey is another reminder that it’s high time for manufacturers to develop devices with “differentiating factors” and provide an “enriching experience” to users. After all, there’s a smartphone market there to be won.