Setting the Record Straight: iPhone vs. Android Customer Loyalty Statistics

Includes: AAPL, GOOG
by: Yankee Group

By Carl Howe

A number of reports over the weekend surfaced referencing a statistic from my latest report, “Why iPhones Matter." An article in CNN Money was the first to start this meme, stating in his article that:

The iPhone is also the gift that keeps on giving: 77% of iPhone owners say they’ll buy another iPhone, compared to 20% of Android customers who say they’ll buy another Android phone.

Now that would be an extraordinary statistic if it were true, but unfortunately, it isn’t.

The following excerpt from the report correctly describes the data we collected. I’ve expanded slightly on the text to both be more precise (i.e., using numbers from the graphic instead of the more colloquial “more than three quarters” used in the original) and to provide context (i.e., providing information that is part of the overall research, but which isn’t strictly in this block of text I’m quoting). I’ve also included the graphic from the report along with this blog post so people can see the data for themselves.

  • iPhone owners intend to stick with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Unsurprisingly, not only do 88 percent of iPhone owners intend to buy another smartphone, but 77 percent of iPhone owners intend to buy another Apple phone.
  • Significant numbers of non-iPhone owners intend to buy iPhones. A third of smartphone owners of all types who intend to buy a smartphone intend to buy an iPhone. In fact, Apple is the most popular choice for a future smartphone among all mobile phone owners.
  • No other manufacturer can claim nearly the loyalty of iPhone owners. RIM (RIMM) BlackBerry owners see a touch-screen device as the antithesis of their hard keyboards. However, even in this category, 23 percent of respondents plan to buy an Apple iPhone. We see similar results with all other mobile phone owners. In fact, 36 percent of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)-branded Android phone owners say they plan to buy an iPhone, surpassing the 32 percent of Google-branded phone owners who intend to buy another Android phone.

This is no knock on CNN Money; it’s hard to condense 3,500 words statistically describing iPhone owners and their behaviors into a paragraph. However, given how much play the statistic is getting, it seems like a good idea to set the record straight.

So what is the right statistic for Android owners? The honest answer is that we don’t know. You’ll note in the excerpt above, we were careful to say “Google-branded Android phone owners.” That’s because our data keys on the manufacturer of the phone as the way to determine what type of phone a consumer owns. Because all non-Google Android brands make phones using other operating systems, Google-branded phones are the only ones we can be certain run Android. However, restricting ourselves to that category means that we leave out a big segment of Android owners, specifically those who own Motorola (MOT) Droids and HTC (HTC) EVOs among others. Clearly these owners may have differing future buying preferences, but our survey is unable to differentiate those Android phone owners from non-Android phones made by those manufacturers.

Yankee Group still believes that Android will become the next breakout mobile phone platform, making it the third most popular platform behind iPhone and RIM’s Blackberry in installed base for at least the next five years. For the moment, the statistical basis for that prediction is better than reported over the weekend, but still a bit unclear until we can gather data on Android owners of all phone brands. But in the meantime we do know this: iPhone still leads in the minds of consumers when they think about buying a new smartphone.

Follow-on: Some have asked about the samples size of this study. Here’s the official methodological data from the report:

The 2010 survey results to date contain 3,425 respondents, while the 2009 survey results have 14,254. We segment responses to the survey based on the types and brands of mobile phone those consumers own. Specifically, we define the segments as follows:

  • Mobile phone owners: This segment comprises all respondents who own a mobile phone, regardless of brand.
  • Smartphone owners: This segment comprises all owners who self-identify their handset as a smartphone, which we define as “a mobile phone offering advanced multimedia features like e-mail, Internet browsing and/or a touch screen or built-in full keyboard, using a smartphone OS.” Examples include the iPhone OS, Palm (NYSE:HPQ) webOS, Symbian S60, Windows (NASDAQ:MSFT) Mobile, Linux, Android and BlackBerry OS.
  • iPhone owners: This segment comprises all respondents who say their phone brand is Apple.

The surveys used for this report were conducted prior to the iPhone 4 launch. We believe all the trends we note in this report will continue after the iPhone 4 launch, perhaps with even greater strength. We won’t, however, have objective data to measure the magnitude of those effects until later in 2010.

Disclosure: No positions