Why are Apple iPhone users more platform loyal than Android users are?

Android devices seem to be gateways to life with an Apple [AAPL] iPhone, at least according to the latest survey/infographic as posted by one of the smaller market research firms. That survey claims 22 percent of Android users plan to move to an iPhone within the next six months.


[ABOVE: Android user loyalty in question, c/o AskYourTargetMarket.]


iPhone habits are different. There, 87 percent of existing iPhone users plan to buy a new iPhone in the next six months; and just 9 percent intend switching to Android. In other words, current Android owners are 2.4 times more likely to switch to an iPhone than vice versa.

In other words, one-in-five Android owners aren’t happy with those devices, and would prefer to use an Apple phone.

Ask Your Target Market also found that 23 percent of US adults who plan to buy a smartphone in the next six months don’t own one already, while 73 percent of those currently on Android devices will purchase a new Android device in the next six months.


It’s not too hard to figure out, here’s a few reasons consumers might choose to switch: 

Not every Android device is equal: 

High-powered devices (such as some Galaxy phones) cost around the same as an iPhone; while less well-featured Android devices only offer partial sets of the features purchasers might expect from the OS. In other words, when you get an Android you may not get everything you expect. 

Android is a malware minefield

Most consumer users don’t want to be fiddling with security settings or reading about the latest malware scares. They don’t want to personally vet every app they choose to download, they don’t want to become their very own security expert. They don’t care about rootkits. They don’t even know what rootkits are.  They don’t even want to know what they are. They just want to use their phone. So do enterprise users.

Android’s update system sucks:

While Microsoft at least delivers security updates to all current users, Android updates are delivered through a Byzantine route. This means not every update is made available to every device. This means Gingerbread is still in use on 57.2 percent of Android devices, but Gingerbread is stale -- the OS was first introduced in December 2010. Over half of Android devices used today are already old.

In another reviewer’s words: “The difficulty getting Android updates out even for Google's own devices convinces me that the updates are unusually complicated to get right. I don't see it getting any better as it's been this way since the birth of Android. It will always be hit or miss if/when any given Android phone/tablet will get an update, or how good the experience will be.


[ABOVE: Predicted smartphone marketshare on basis of research data.]


Apple’s experience is different. 

You get to choose between three different iPhone models (though 78 percent of iPhone 4S owners will opt for a 5 in the next six months). All current models are upgradeable with the latest security and OS updates. Apple supports its devices across a three-year window, so an iPhone 4 is still supported, even though it was introduced in 2010. 

There have been few instances of malware on Apple’s platform. One rogue app slipped onto the App Store, but this was swiftly removed. All apps are vetted. While this can lead to terribly censorious behavior on the part of the company, it does mean users don’t have to spend time fretting over app or system security. Users can be reasonably certain that security upgrades will be made available to their device. 

When it comes to device quality, Apple doesn’t stint. It tends to use state-of-the-art components: just take a look at this recent test of the iPhone 5 display in comparison to the iPhone 4S and Galaxy S III. The iPhone 5 is also pleasing many with its LTE performance.

That’s not to say Android is a bad platform. Android dominates the smartphone market and seems likely to do so in future. 

It is important to note that the market is relatively new and subject to further disruption and change. That change could be driven by Apple, Google, Microsoft, RIM or new smartphone players yet to reveal themselves.

This means smartphone users are unlikely to be fully committed to any platform as yet; though the 22 percent migration from Android to iPhone in contrast to the 9 percent moving the other way suggests Apple commands a higher degree of user loyalty.

For Apple, the challenge is to maintain that loyalty while continuing to attract customers from other platforms. For Google the challenge must be its need to improve its offering in order to build future loyalty. So what do you think Google can do to achieve this?

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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