Poll suggests third of Android owners really want an iPhone

Davey Winder
14 Nov 2010

Android is on a wave, it would seem, what with Gartner just announcing that the Google mobile OS has a 25.5% global market share. This puts it in second place behind Symbian on 36.6%, miles ahead of Apple's iOS on 16.7% and RIM on 14.8%. Indeed, Gartner says that 1.4 million more Android handsets were sold in the third quarter compared to this time last year, taking the total to 20.5 million. However, one piece of polling would suggest that not everyone in the Android camp is a happy bunny.

A survey conducted by a mobile phone comparison website called MyPhoneDeals reckons that many Android owners would much rather have an iPhone, truth be told. Interestingly, the reverse is not true. MyPhoneDeals found Android owners some four times more likely to covet an iPhone than iPhone owners were to desire an Android handset. Apparently a third of the Android-owning folk asked said they wanted an iPhone, and 7% of iPhone owners actually said they would prefer an Android model thank you very much.

The figures coming out of this poll (which doesn't appear to be available online, sorry folks) rather surprisingly also suggest that only16% of people would 'most like to own' an Android smartphone. Which is downright bizarre, if you ask me, given that popularity wave of which I spoke at the start of this piece and the sales figures for Android devices so far this year. More of my ideas on that later. Still, it could be worse, we could be talking about the new Windows Phone devices of which only 3% of respondents stuck up their hands regarding the most wanted question.

Apple will be happy enough, though, as MyPhoneDeals found that more than half of men who didn't already own a smartphone would choose to break their smartphone virginity with an iPhone. That compares to less than one-fifth who were planning an Android first purchase. Woman proved to be even more attracted to the iPhone with nearly three-quarters of those asked thinking it the most desirable of smartphones.

There are, I think, a few things wrong with all of this. First there is the sample size involved which, at just 524 people, is hardly likely to be hugely representative of the market in my opinion. Secondly, I can't help but feel that what this survey reveals is that Apple brand marketing works really well. Everyone knows not only what an iPhone is and what it does but what it looks like. The whole iOS interface has become an iconic benchmark for user friendliness and is what most consumers aspire to and most rivals, it has to be said, attempt to copy.

That doesn't mean that people really don't want an Android, but rather that they are less aware that the smartphone they lust after is Android-based perhaps? My own totally random polling of friends and family, which involved me showing people an HTC Desire handset and asking if they would rather have this smartphone, an iPhone or an Android handset produced interesting results.

I asked 10 people. Three knew the HTC Desire was an Android handset, four said they would like an iPhone, two said an Android and one said the HTC. What does this prove? Simple: many people wouldn't know an Android-based smartphone if it bit them on the arse, whereas an iPhone doesn't need to gnash on your booty to introduce itself.

Of course, this Android commoditisation of the smartphone market is a double-edged sword: it builds market share but with a myriad custom front ends it does nothing to build consumer awareness or, importantly, brand loyalty or desirability. Still, even allowing for the small sample size of that survey, it remains interesting that so many people with other phones would prefer an iPhone, and one has to wonder why it is they don't have one.

The only thing I can think of that would deter folk is price. If that is the case, as Android brand awareness increases and Android-based handsets continue to innovate and impress, the iPhone could be in for a bumpy ride in the marketplace.

Where Windows Phone 7 handsets fit into all of this is less easy to predict, what do you reckon?

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