Android beats iOS in smartphone loyalty, study finds


Samsung’s new Galaxy S9 may not quite live up to the iPhone X when it comes to Samsung’s implementation of a Face ID-style system or its odd take on AR emoji. But that’s not going to matter much to Samsung device owners — not only because the S9 is a good smartphone overall, but because Android users just aren’t switching to iPhone anymore. In fact, Android users have higher loyalty than iOS users do, according to a new report today from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP).

The research firm found that Android brand loyalty has been remaining steadily high since early 2016, and remains at the highest levels ever seen.

Today, Android has a 91 percent loyalty rate, compared with 86 percent for iOS, measured as the percentage of U.S. customers who stayed with their operating system when they upgraded their phone in 2017.

From January 2016 through December 2017, Android loyalty ranged from 89 to 91 percent (ending at 91 percent), while iOS loyalty was several percentage points lower, ranging from 85 to 88 percent.

Explains Mike Levin, partner and co-founder of CIRP, users have pretty much settled on their brand of choice at this point.

“With only two mobile operating systems at this point, it appears users now pick one, learn it, invest in apps and storage, and stick with it. Now, Apple and Google need to figure out how to
sell products and services to these loyal customer bases,” he said.

That’s also why both companies have increasingly become focused on services, as they try to extract larger revenues from their respective user bases. For Apple, that’s been a win, financially speaking — it saw record revenue from services in November, suggesting growth in things like Apple Music, Apple Pay, iCloud, AppleCare and App Store.

For Android users, the higher brand loyalty could be chalked up to their ability to switch to different styles of new phones, without having to leave Android — thanks to its distribution across a variety of handsets. That gives users the freedom to try out new experiences, without giving up their investments in purchased apps, or the time they’ve spent learning their way around Android, for that matter.

It’s worth noting that Android hasn’t always led in user loyalty as it does now. CIRP has been tracking these metrics for years, and things used to be the other way around.

In 2013, for example, iPhone owners were found to be more loyal than Android users. But that shifted the following year, and Android has risen ever since. (By the way, if you click through to read the comments on that linked AllThingsD article from 2013, it’s a quite a trip. Remember when people cared so much about their choice of smartphone it led to commenting wars? Ah, the good ol’ days.)

All that being said, the rate of switching is different from the total number of people switching, the firm also pointed out. And looking at the numbers from that perspective changes things.

“We know Android has a larger base of users than iOS, and because of that larger base, the
absolute number of users that switch to iOS from Android is as large or larger than the
absolute number of users that switch to Android from iOS,” said Levin.”Looking at absolute number of users in this way tends to support claims that iOS gains more former Android users,
than Android does former iOS users.”

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