The majority of global smartphone users (56 percent) polled by German marketing company GfK said they were keeping their options open about which phone they would buy next, “with only Apple commanding a significant degree of loyalty,” reported Georgina Prodhan of Reuters (Nov. 29).
“The survey found that just 25 percent of smartphone owners planned to stay loyal to the operating system running their phone.” wrote Prodhan. Loyalty was highest among Apple users at 59 percent, followed by RIM with 35 percent, Android with 28 percent, Symbian with 24 percent and Microsoft at 21 percent.
GfK surveyed 2,653 mobile phone users in Brazil, Germany, Spain, Britain, the U.S. and China during October and November.
This is great news for everybody in the wireless retail industry. Even Microsoft has reason to be optimistic, since this poll reflects more on the Windows Mobile OS than on Windows Phone 7, which just came out in November. Similarly, Symbian-maker Nokia has announced plans for new versions of its OS, which it hopes will boost its loyalty rate.
It’s exciting because it means that, from a consumer’s perspective, the market is wide open. Apple has the highest loyalty, but even in its case, 41 percent of respondents are willing to switch phones in favor of a better product. Carriers can rejoice because they no longer have to compete based on exclusive device rights – they can offer smartphones on different operating systems, from different manufacturers and still attract new users.
Likewise, retailers should be pleased because, regardless of their carrier or supplier commitments, they can put desirable, competitive smartphones on the shelves – and focus more on delivering a quality in-store experience for customers (see Article 1 of this issue).
And ultimately, the customer can rest assured that all the above parties will compete fiercely to improve their networks, their devices, their pricing and their customer experience in order to keep customers happy.
“Loyalty with a handset is a lot more complicated these days in that people buy into experiences at the high-end level,” Ryan Garner, the lead analyst on the survey, told Reuters. “If a phone doesn’t do what it says it will do or what the owner hopes it will do, the maker will lose loyalty.”
The smartphone war is far from over. “There’s been an explosion of new choices in the market over the last year, with Android and Windows Phone 7, and with new versions of Symbian, the RIM OS and Meego in the pipeline, there is huge choice,” Garner said to PC Pro (Nov. 29).