The Majority of iPhone Users Admit to ‘Blind Loyalty’ – Why This A Problem For … – Forbes

iSheep. That’s the retort most readily used to attack owners of Apple Apple kit. It is a wonderfully concise allegation: the thoughtless herd mentality Apple cynics attribute to those happy to spend small fortunes on Macs, MacBooks, iPhones and iPads. Well brace yourself for new forum flame wars because it might just be true.

As part of ongoing research into mobile phone purchasing decisions simonlycontracts.co.uk polled 2,275 iPhone owners and found a staggering 59% admitted “blind loyalty” to the handset. The definition was this was users who stated they would not even consider researching other handsets when upgrading in future. Asked why 78% they “couldn’t imagine having a different type of phone now” while 52% said they were just “really impressed” with their iPhone.

In many ways this is an enviable position for Apple and demonstrates a level of brand loyalty to which most manufacturers can only dream. After all if the majority of your customer base won’t even look at alternatives before buying your latest model how can you lose?

In many ways Apple can’t. According to figures this month from Asymco, Apple has taken 62% of the smartphone industry’s $216BN net operating profits over the last six years. As a measure of this dominance Samsung was second with 26%. In keeping iOS as a closed platform Apple also maintains a stranglehold on its App Store, minimises malware and ensures owners get the latest software upgrades immediately. In such a scenario why would you look elsewhere?

And yet dig deeper and there are clouds on the horizon.

iPhone 5C

iPhone 5C (Photo credit: John.Karakatsanis)

While Android and iOS market share remains relatively equal in the US it is an anomaly against the rest of the world. IDC reports in 2012 Android took 69% of the global smartphone market and by the end of 2013 that figure had leapt to an eye watering 78.6%. In this time Android market shipments were up 40.3% while iOS grew 6.7%.

Furthermore the hot sector is the sub-$200 smartphone which grew 42.6% in 2013, roughly 430M units. Apple is clearly wary of the sector having first introduced the iPhone 5C then earlier this week a new entry level 8GB edition. But response to line has so far has been weak and lobotomising its storage is unlikely to prove an effective reboot. Strategic decisions also raise concern. In 2013 Apple chose to respray its OS while Google Google chose to recode Android from the bottom up to run smoothly on budget smartphones.

Dig into simonlycontracts’ seemingly impervious ‘blind loyalty’ research and cracks also start to appear. Asked ‘What mobile phone did you own before your current iPhone?’ the majority, 54%, unsurprisingly had another iPhone but a further 31% came from fading brands BlackBerry (17%) and Nokia Nokia (14%). That’s just 15% moving from more competitive brands while arguably Nokia is again finding its feet suggesting less easy pickings in future.

Interestingly all those who had a previous iPhone were asked why they chose to stick with Apple and just 28% said because “it seemed to be the best phone at the time of switching”. 37% meanwhile said it was because they were used to the interface, the false friend Nokia long thought would protect it, while 25% cited friends and relatives who had iPhones.

The first of these is particularly interesting because, refresh aside, the iOS user interface is something long due a major overhaul having changed little since it debuted back in 2007. Meanwhile reliance on friends and family is easily eroded should the budget charms of Windows Phone or Android take a foothold. With Google’s flagship Nexus 5 retailing from almost half the price of an entry level iPhone 5S off contract and the remarkable Motorola Moto G available for just $99 it seems unlikely this collective ostrich syndrome can continue.

Crucially first time smartphone buyers are also picking Android – understandably due to price. Previously a poor user experience from these cheap handsets would usher them to Apple sooner or later. Now with Android better suited to low spec hardware and commodisation of smartphones seeing powerful handsets available at bargain prices starting with Android could well shift from a cautionary tale to powerful gateway drug.

At that point blind loyalty would be almost impossible. Even for self-confessed iSheep.

 

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