April 30, 2013, 5:16 PM

iPhones will surpass Android smartphones in 2016

Android’s share of the U.S. smartphone market has peaked, Yankee Group says.

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Android’s dominance of the U.S. smartphone market will come to an end in 2016 when more consumers will own iPhones than Android phones, technology research and consulting firm Yankee Group predicts.

Yankee Group surveyed 16,000 U.S. consumers asking about smartphones or feature phones currently used and smartphones consumers intend to buy in the next six months; the results are in a new report entitled “Yankee Group 2013 U.S. Consumer Survey, March.” And as part of its analysis, the firm combined data from this new report with information from another new study, “Yankee Group North America Mobile Carrier Monitor, March 2013,” to estimate smartphone shipments by operating system and brand among U.S. carriers.

Android smartphone ownership has peaked: 34% of the U.S. population today owns an Android phone, and Android’s share will remain at 34% 2014 through 2017, Yankee Group predicts. 20% of the U.S. population owns an iPhone today; that share will increase to 27% in 2014, 33% in 2015, 37% in 2016 and 42% in 2017, Yankee Group says. 4% of the U.S. population today owns a smartphone running Windows Phone; that share will increase to 6% in 2014, 7% in 2015, and stay flat at 7% in 2016 and 2017, the firm says. And BlackBerry ownership will stay flat at 3% 2013 through 2016 and then drop to 2% in 2017, Yankee Group predicts.

Today 66% of the U.S. population owns a smartphone while 32% owns a feature phone; in 2017 86% of the population will own a smartphone and 12% will own a feature phone, Yankee Group predicts.

The “Yankee Group 2013 U.S. Consumer Survey, March” reveals that smartphone buying intention favors Apple Inc. For example, despite being Apple’s strongest competitor, only 19% of smartphone owners have a Samsung phone and only about 17% intend to buy one, the report says. More than twice as many smartphone buyers intend to buy an iPhone, meaning that Samsung, as well as all other manufacturers that have lower intent to buy figures, will lose market share against Apple in the next six months, Yankee Group says.

50% of smartphone owners own a phone that runs Android, the report finds. Of respondents who say they intend to buy a new smartphone within the next six months, 42% say they intend to buy an Android phone. Apple owners constitute only 30% of smartphone-owning respondents. However, 42% of respondents intending to buy a new smartphone within the next six months say they intend to buy an iPhone. This high buying intention when compared to ownership indicates that Apple will gain share against market leader Android during the next six months, Yankee Group says.

“The combination of Apple’s high brand awareness and consumers’ worries about making a bad smartphone choice is influencing a plurality of feature phone owners to upgrade to iPhones,” the report says. “And Apple owners are more loyal to their platform than Android owners. Of all the smartphone ecosystems, iPhone owners are the least likely to defect from Apple when making their next smartphone purchase.”

More than nine out of 10 iPhone owners intend to buy another iPhone—only 6% of survey respondents owning iPhones intend to buy an Android phone with their next purchase, and even fewer intend to switch to the BlackBerry or Windows ecosystems, Yankee Group finds. “Apple’s high 91% loyalty rate makes it a black hole for smartphone buyers: Once a consumer buys an iPhone, he or she is highly unlikely to switch to another ecosystem,” the report says.

Yet one in four Android owners intend to defect, Yankee Group says. 76% of Android owners intend to buy another Android phone, but that leaves 24% of Android owners switching to other platforms. More important, 18% of Android owners intend to switch to Apple, while only 6% of Apple owners intend to switch to Android. This asymmetric buying behavior is driving the iPhone to dominance among smartphone operating systems, Yankee Group says.

“An easy way to think beyond the numbers about why Apple gains share is to use an analogy referred to as the leaky bucket theory,” Yankee Group says. “Think of the Apple and Android ecosystems as two buckets of water. New smartphone buyers—mostly upgrading feature phone owners—fall like rain into the two big buckets about equally, with a smaller number falling into Windows Phone and BlackBerry buckets. However, the Android bucket leaks badly, losing about one in five of all the owners put into it. The Apple bucket leaks only about 7% of its contents, so it retains more of the customers that fall into it. The Apple bucket will fill up faster and higher than the Android one, regardless of the fact that the Apple bucket may have had fewer owners in it to begin with.”

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