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When it comes to smartphone brand loyalty, Apple and Samsung are in a class all by themselves, commanding more than twice the level of consumer allegiance attained by other brands.

Apple and Samsung boast a combined customer loyalty rate of 69 percent, according to a multinational survey conducted by IHS Markit | Technology, now a part of Informa Tech. In comparison, the smartphone market as a whole commands a loyalty rate of 53 percent. However, when Apple and Samsung are excluded from the total, the market loyalty rate plunges to 33 percent—less than half the total for the two prominent smartphone brands, as reported by the Mobile Phone Purchase Driver Report 2019.

“Apple and Samsung have worked diligently over many years to build their brands—spending heavily on marketing and advertising to maintain a strong following among consumers,” said James Allison, principal analyst, consumer devices, at IHS Markit | Technology. “As a result, these two companies have been able to erect competitive bulwarks that insulate them from the pressures faced by other brands. For companies not named Apple or Samsung, conditions in the smartphone business are intensely competitive, as companies battle over a few percentage points of market share without the benefit of a leading brand name.”

 

Familiarity breeds sales for Apple

Consumers indicated their main motivation for purchasing an iPhone was to upgrade their current Apple smartphone. A total of 27 percent of survey respondents who bought Apple iPhones cited a desire to upgrade as their main reason for making the purchase. This is 11 percentage points higher than the market average for all brands.

Apple’s brand familiarity among consumers is growing at a faster rate than for other smartphone makers. For the smartphone market as a whole, 22 percent of users cited brand familiarity as their reason for buying a smartphone in 2019, up from 19 percent of users who bought a phone before 2014. In contrast, Apple totaled 37 percent in 2019, up from 28 percent before 2014.

The biggest reason survey respondents cited for staying with Apple smartphones was a desire to upgrade from a previous iPhone model. A total of 36 percent of respondents named upgrading as their main motivation for sticking with Apple.

 

Samsung benefits from upgrade sales

Just as with Apple, respondents who stayed with Samsung cited upgrading a previous model as the largest single reason, with 23 percent naming this as their rationale. Various hardware-related reasons accounted for 27 percent of responses, while different cost issues were cited by 24 percent of survey participants.

 

Brand familiarity rules in the U.S. smartphone market

While purchasing motivations vary from country to country, brand familiarity is the top factor in the key wireless market of the United States. A total of 32 percent of U.S. respondents cited brand familiarity as the cause for their purchasing decision. Brand loyalty is also strong in the U.S., with 26 percent of respondents saying that their current handset is an upgrade of a previous model of the same brand.