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Android apostates account for 1-in-5 U.S. iPhone sales

Gregg Keizer | Jan. 30, 2015
Apple CEO Tim Cook may have tapped Android "switchers" as part of the reason for the boffo iPhone sales last quarter, but a survey implied that most of those defectors lived outside the U.S.

Apple CEO Tim Cook may have tapped Android "switchers" as part of the reason for the boffo iPhone sales last quarter, but a survey implied that most of those defectors lived outside the U.S.

The same poll illustrated that in the U.S. iPhones are increasingly sold to current Apple customers.

Earlier this week, as Cook called the quarter "staggering" and "hard to comprehend," he said that the "switcher rate" — the proportion of first-time iPhone buyers deserting Google's Android — was higher than the previous three cycles.

"The current iPhone line-up experienced the highest Android switcher rate in any of the last three launches in the three previous years," said Cook on Tuesday during an earnings call with Wall Street. "And we didn't look back to the other years. So I don't know about those."

Apple sold a record 74.5 million iPhones in the three months that ended Dec. 31, easily beating even the most optimistic estimates, and fueling a single-quarter revenue record of $74.6 billion.

But according to Chicago-based Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP), the U.S. Android-to-iOS switcher rate, while higher for the latest round (iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus) than its immediate predecessor (iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S), was not out of whack with the U.S. track record of the last 10 quarters.

In the fourth quarter, 19% of U.S. iPhone customers polled by CIRP said that they had switched from an Android phone, the research firm said today. That was about mid-way in the usual range of 16% to 26%. "Apple gets a nice bump from Android users every launch, but it's not a hockey stick [line on the chart]," said Mike Levin, partner at and co-founder of CIRP, in an interview. "OS loyalty tends to be pretty strong [and] the Android switching rate has remained relatively consistent."

In the previous two post-launch quarters — after Apple shipped new iPhones in 2012 and 2013 — the switcher percentage was 19% (after the iPhone 5 release) and 16% (after the iPhone 5C/5S debuts), respectively, said CIRP.

Both were well within the usual 16%-26% range, but Mike Levin, partner at and co-founder of CIRP, said it's typical that in even-numbered years, when Apple revamps the exterior design of the iPhone, more Android users switch to iOS.

"There are slightly different sets of factors each year, and OS loyalty gets rewritten," Levin said in a Thursday interview.

But the relatively low percentage of Android switchers, even after the debut of the iPhone 6 Plus, contradicted Cook's theory that disloyalists were responsible for the fourth-quarter boom, at least in the U.S.

"This week, Apple emphasized the international strength of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus launch, so it appears that Apple enjoyed a much higher rate of Android switching outside the U.S. than in the more mature U.S. market," Levin said.

 

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