Mobile Operating System Loyalty: High and Steady

Android loyalty slightly exceeds iOS

Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, LLC (CIRP) today released additional research on mobile phone operating system consumer behavior in the US, including Google Android and Apple iOS.

CIRP finds that between Android and iOS, loyalty to each has remained steady since early 2016, at the highest levels seen. Android has a 91% loyalty rate, compared to 86% for iOS, measured as the percentage of customers that remain with each operating system when activating a new phone over the twelve months ending December 2017.

From January 2016 through December 2017, Android loyalty was 89-91%, while iOS loyalty was 85-88% (Chart 1).

Chart 1: Customer Retention (twelve months ending in each quarter) 

Chart 1: Customer Retention (twelve months ending in each quarter) 

Loyalty for both Android and iOS increased in 2015 and into 2016, when it leveled off for both operating systems. Loyalty is also as high as we’ve ever seen, really from 85-90% at any given point. With only two mobile operating systems at this point, it appears users now pick one, learn it, invest in apps and storage, and stick with it. Now, Apple and Google need to figure out how to sell products and services to these loyal customer bases.

Android user loyalty now slightly exceeds that of iOS users. Over time, Android loyalty gradually increased, as it achieved parity in availability of apps, music and video, and as the user experience on the two platforms became more similar. Android users also benefit from a wide range of phones from different manufacturers, so they can switch hardware without learning a new operating system.

iOS and Android compete more aggressively as the number of first-time smartphone buyers shrinks. With fewer users of the legacy smartphone operating systems, basic phone owners, and first-time mobile phone buyers, Android and iOS now mostly gain and lose users to the other operating system.

Still, the rate of switching between Android and iOS is different than the absolute number of users that switch between the two operating systems. We know Android has a larger base of users than iOS, and because of that larger base, the absolute number of users that switch to iOS from Android is as large or larger than the absolute number of users that switch to Android from iOS. Looking at absolute number of users in this way tends to support claims that iOS gains more former Android users, than Android does former iOS users.

CIRP bases its findings on quarterly surveys, with a sample of 500 subjects in each, from March 2013-December 2017, that activated a new phone in each of the quarters surveyed. For additional information, please contact CIRP.