How OS Switchers and First-Time Smartphone Buyers Work

05/06/2015 10:26 am ET | Updated May 06, 2016

Fewer Switchers as Loyalty Strengthens, as First-Timers Choose Android

Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) has released analysis of research on consumers who switch operating systems, and on first-time smartphone buyers.

CIRP finds that in the March 2015 quarter, 18 percent of U.S. iPhone buyers switched from the Google Android operating system, virtually the same as the 19 percent who did so in the March 2014 quarter (Chart 1). In the March 2015 quarter, 72 percent of U.S. iPhone buyers had previously owned an iPhone, up from 62 percent in the March 2014 quarter.

Chart 1: Previous Operating System, iPhone Buyers in March 2015 and March 2014 Quarters


The share of iPhone buyers coming from Android has remained constant, at least in the U.S. In a quarter with significant iPhone sales, that switch rate does indeed translate into more customers moving from Android to iPhone. Perhaps Apple CEO Tim Cook was referring to the number of customers or international sales when he said, "[W]e're seeing a higher rate of switchers than we've experienced in previous iPhone cycles." In general, with increasingly fewer new smartphone customers in mature markets like the U.S., Apple will sell a large and growing percentage of iPhones to existing iPhone owners.

Among consumers who bought their first smartphone in the March 2015 quarter, 71 percent bought a smartphone with the Google Android operating system, up from 56 percent in the March 2014 quarter (Chart 2). Some 17 percent of these consumers bought an iPhone, compared with 31 percent in the March 2014 quarter.

Chart 2: Phones Bought by First-Time Smartphone Buyers


In addition to attracting buyers from other smartphone platforms, mostly Android, Apple relies in part on a shrinking pool of first-time smartphone buyers. CEO Cook also reported, "[W]e're doing fairly well with first-time buyers." Yet at least in the U.S., first-time smartphone buyers, either those coming from a basic flip phone or true first-time mobile phone owners, choose Android phones by a large margin. And a small but consistent percentage remains with the basic flip phone.

CIRP bases its findings on its quarterly surveys of U.S. Apple customers, and on its quarterly surveys of mobile phone customers. Each survey samples 500 customers who purchased an Apple product (iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer) in the quarter, or 500 customers who activated a new or used phone in the quarter. For additional information, please contact CIRP.