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8/1/2011
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Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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iPhone Owners Twice As Loyal As Android Fans

Apple users stay committed to their phone brand, says Piper Jaffray analyst. Android and BlackBerry owners? Not so much.

The results of a survey conducted recently by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster lead him to believe that nearly all owners of an Apple iPhone plan to buy another iPhone. Though the sample size is relatively small (216 mobile phone users in Minneapolis), the results still let us speculate on what's going to happen this fall when the next iPhone from Apple arrives.

Munster concludes that 94% of iPhone owners plan to buy another one, probably the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 (or whatever Apple ends up calling it) is reportedly on track for a September or October release, depending on whose "informed sources" you care to believe.

Verizon Wireless' executives have already hinted that it will sell the new iPhone at the same time it becomes available for AT&T. When it goes on sale, the iPhone 5 will be available to about 200 million customers, between AT&T and Verizon Wireless. That's a huge potential market.

Munster sees a lot of pent-up demand at Verizon Wireless, in particular, for the next version of the iPhone. Though Verizon began selling the iPhone 4 in February, Munster believes that many Verizon customers decided to wait for the newest iPhone to become available before switching. The iPhone 4 was six months old at the time of its launch on Verizon.

With a possible upgrade rate of 94%, that's a lot of loyalty from Apple customers. How does the loyalty of other platform users rate? Not as high, that's for sure.

Munster's numbers suggest that only 47% of Android owners--half as many as the iPhone--plan to upgrade to another Android phone. Instead, 42% of them believe they're going to switch to an iPhone.

BlackBerry's numbers are far worse. Only 26% of those responding to Munster's survey said they are likely to buy another BlackBerry. Instead, 67% said they plan to buy an iPhone. That's gotta be painful for RIM to hear.

The overall conclusion reached by Munster after examining the results of this poll is that Apple's share of the U.S. market is primed to blast off when the iPhone 5 becomes available later this year. Not a stunningly unique conclusion, given that the iPhone 5 will arrive three to four months later this year than it has in past years, and all of its predecessors have been successful devices.

While I have no doubt that the next version of the iPhone will be a success, the real question is what sort of dent it puts into the seemingly endless growth rate of Android adoption. Android's growth rate is nothing short of phenomenal, and shows no signs of slowing down. Google is activating 550,000 Android handsets per day, and the company is due to release a major new version of Android--Ice Cream Sandwich--later this year. It's just as likely that Android users are savvy enough to know that a better version of the operating system is on the way. They may hold off adopting until the new system is available on store shelves.

Similarly, Research In Motion is introducing at least six new handsets running BlackBerry 7 throughout the remaining five months of the year. Surely RIM will position its new devices as a strong business alternative to the Android and iOS platforms. Unless RIM's new BlackBerrys redefine the overall experience, however, it is doubtful they'll have the impact the company is looking for.

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