Android users more loyal than iOS counterparts, data shows

More than eight out of 10 Android smartphone owners are likely to buy another Android-based device. Apple's iOS is trailing slightly behind, according to a market researcher.

Current owners of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are loyal -- to a degree. CNET

Android smartphone owners have become more loyal to their operating system than iOS users over the last two years, according to new data.

Between July 2013 and June 2015, 82 percent of previous Android owners stuck with the operating system when they purchased a new handset, market researcher Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) said Tuesday. Apple's iOS was close behind with a 78 percent loyalty rate. All data was based on quarterly surveys of 4,000 individuals across the US.

Other mobile operating system makers didn't fare as well as Google and Apple. BlackBerry, for instance, kept just 4 percent of its users during the period. Microsoft's Windows platform clung to 19 percent of its users.

The data suggests that, at least among iOS and Android owners, switching to a new platform is not an attractive option. Perhaps more importantly to companies not named Google and Apple, it also suggests that having another operating system can be dangerous business. Exactly why customers choose to stick with Android and iOS, however, isn't immediately clear, according to the researchers.

"The dynamic between Apple iOS and Google Android is not well-understood," Josh Lowitz, CIRP co-founder, said in a statement. "Even the basic loyalty rate, the measure of how each operating system retains its own users, is not widely known. Conventional wisdom says the Apple 'ecosystem' promotes loyalty, while Android readily gives up users to iOS. Our analysis has a more nuanced view on operating system selection, and indicates Android user loyalty has caught up and even exceeds that of iOS."

Apple's inability to retain as many of its own users as Android stands in stark contrast to a similar study conducted in 2013. At that time, Retrevo, a gadget-comparison company, released a study on how likely then-current Android and iOS users were to adopt new devices with the same operating system. That company found that 81 percent of iPhone owners would buy another Apple handset. The loyalty rate stood at 63 percent for Android.

While Apple's loyalty rates are still sizable, Tuesday's news follows a report in April from survey-creating company SurveyMonkey that found Apple had the second-highest customer loyalty rate of any technology firm. The company with the highest loyalty, however, was Samsung -- Apple's chief competitor in the smartphone business.

What's worse for Apple, CIRP data shows that 20 percent of previous iOS owners decided to pick up an Android device during the period it evaluated. By contrast, 16 percent of Android users switched to iOS, potentially boosting Android's market share on the back of Apple's platform.

During Apple's most recent earnings call in July, CEO Tim Cook offered a different take on the state of his company's platform. He said Apple had measured its highest-ever switch rate from Android to iOS devices in the three-month period that ended June 27. He also noted that his company's data included iPhone gains in both sales and market share across the world. The CIRP study was based solely on the US.

Despite not pinpointing exactly why users switch, CIRP analyzed whether switching carriers made a difference. The company found that while 79 percent of previous Android users would stick with the platform if they switched to a new carrier, just 51 percent of iOS users would continue on with Apple's platform if they found a new service provider.

"Unlike almost every other product in technology, users cannot easily articulate why they like one or another operating system," CIRP co-founder Mike Levin said in a statement. "One variable that seems to affect operating system switching behavior is mobile carrier switching. The time a user switches mobile carriers also is a logical time to switch operating systems. Our analysis suggests that switching mobile carriers correlates with iOS users switching to Android, but not Android users to switching to iOS."

The CIRP findings also show another phenomenon: Customers switching to AT&T and Verizon were most likely to also switch from Android to iOS. Customers who moved to T-Mobile or Sprint were more likely to shift from iOS to Android.

Apple declined to comment on the report. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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