iPhone purchase plans at all-time high in U.S.

Best showing ever for Apple's smartphone months after the debut of new model, says pollster

Demand for the iPhone 4S among U.S. consumers remains "incredibly strong," a research company said today as it cited a late December survey of smartphone buying plans.

According to ChangeWave Research, 54% of the U.S. consumers who said they planned on buying a new smartphone in the next 90 days tagged Apple's iPhone 4S as their likely purchase.

While that number is down from the 65% who identified the iPhone as their preference just before Apple debuted the iPhone 4S in October 2011, it's the highest ever for an Apple smartphone two months or more after its introduction, said Paul Carton, director of research at ChangeWave.

"Apple has never dominated smart phone planned buying to this extent more than two months after a major new release," said Carton in an email Monday.

In September 2010, just months after the introduction of the iPhone 4, a similar ChangeWave survey put the purchase plans for an iOS-powered smartphone at just 39%, neck-and-neck with Google's Android. That number of 39% was the prior record for the iPhone's portion of planned purchases two or more months after the debut of a new model.

"The pattern is clear," said Carton in an interview Monday. "Apple has never had a score like this."

iPhone buying plans have followed a definite pattern. Historically, interest jumps just prior to the release of a new iPhone, peaks at or immediately after the release, then wanes.

In June 2008, for example, anticipated iPhone purchases reached 56% in a poll conducted the same month the iPhone 3G shipped, but fell to 34% three months later, then dropped to 30% before climbing again to 44% in mid-2009 when the iPhone 3GS launched.

The iPhone 4's trend line, however, was different: While that 2010 model peaked at 52% and then fell to 39% three months later, it jumped back up to 47% around the time that Apple started selling its smartphone to Verizon customers in early 2011.

"The Verizon effect was strong enough to bend the pattern," said Carton, "because a whole new class of users could have the smartphone. So now, the iPhone 4S is still doing its thing. It ain't over for the iPhone 4S."

In the most recent poll, the only smartphone maker other than Apple to register in double digits was Samsung, with 13%, an eight-point jump since ChangeWave's September 2011 survey.

Smartphone buying plans
U.S. consumers' plans to buy an iPhone are at an all-time high. (Data: ChangeWave Research.)
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