John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Android’s Leaky Bucket: Loyalty Gives Apple the Edge Over Time

android_leaky_bucketSo, Android’s seemingly inexorable ascension over the iPhone? Not quite so inexorable anymore. Apple’s smartphone continues to gain share over devices running Google’s mobile OS in the U.S.; so much so that, according to the Yankee Group, iPhone ownership in the U.S. will exceed Android ownership by 2015. The reason: Platform loyalty.

Yankee Group surveyed 16,000 consumers over the past 12 months regarding which smartphones they own and which they intend to buy within the next six months. And, broadly, it found what you’d expect. About half of smartphone owners use an Android handset, while 30 percent use an iPhone. Of respondents who intend to buy a new smartphone within the next six months, 42 percent said they plan to buy an Android phone. Another 42 percent plan to purchase an iPhone. Again, about what you’d expect from the Google-Apple smartphone duopoly, with one exception: Buying intention versus ownership is higher for iPhone than Android.

Now, here’s another.

Of those surveyed, 91 percent of iPhone owners intend to buy another iPhone, while 6 percent plan to switch to an Android device with their next purchase. In other words, more than nine out of 10 iPhone owners are loyal to the platform. Once you buy an iPhone, chances are high you’re going to buy another.

That’s not quite as true for Android. Yankee found that 76 percent of Android owners intend to buy another Android phone. A big number, sure. But it means that 24 percent of Android phone users plan to switch to another platform. Guess where the majority of those professed switchers are going — 18 percent to iPhones.

Flip side: Just 6 percent of iPhone owners said they plan to switch to Android.

That’s a pretty significant asymmetry. And when you apply it to first-time smartphone buyers, two-thirds of whom plan to buy either an iPhone or an Android phone, it’s not hard to see iPhone ownership surpassing Android ownership in the U.S. in the next few years — by 2015. Yankee Group VP Carl Howe, who figures that Android has already peaked, has a great analogy for how this trend will play out:

“Think of the Apple and Android ecosystems as two buckets of water. New smartphone buyers — mostly upgrading feature phone owners — fall like rain into the two big buckets about equally, with a smaller number falling into Windows Phone and BlackBerry buckets. However, the Android bucket leaks badly, losing about one in five of all the owners put into it. The Apple bucket leaks only about 7 percent of its contents, so it retains more of the customers that fall into it. The Apple bucket will fill up faster and higher than the Android one, regardless of the fact that the Apple bucket may have had fewer owners in it to begin with.”

Lesson: Massive market share surges are great, but platform loyalty is powerful, powerful magic.

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