Android is currently the mobile operating system of choice for most smartphone users around the globe, but according to a new report, Apple's iOS will edge out Android in the coming years thanks to brand loyalty and feature phone upgraders.
Of the 16,000 people polled by the Yankee Group, half have an Android-based device, while 30 per cent have an iPhone, and 7 per cent have a Windows Phone.
Among those who plan to buy a new smartphone in the next six months, 42 per cent said they would buy an Android and another 42 per cent are opting for an iPhone. About eight per cent want Windows Phone and five per cent are eyeing a BlackBerry.
"This high buying intention compared to ownership indicates that Apple will likely gain share against market leader Android within the period," report author Carl Howe concluded.
Lately, the smartphone wars have been framed as a battle between Apple and Samsung, which recently released its newest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4. But according to Yankee stats, Apple will emerge victorious. About 19 per cent of Android owners polled by Yankee had a Samsung device, and 17 per cent plan to make their next smartphone a Samsung.
"More than twice as many smartphone buyers intend to buy an iPhone, meaning that Samsung, as well as other manufacturers that have lower intent to buy figures, will actually lose market share against Apple in the next six months," Yankee said.
The report noted, however, that about 18 per cent don't know which smartphone they want to buy, which "offers opportunity for all manufacturers to sway new buyers to their platforms."
The two things that will help Apple pull ahead, Yankee argued, are brand loyalty and people upgrading from feature phones to smartphones, which "will drive Apple to eclipse Android within three years," Howe predicted.
About six per cent of iPhone users plan to switch to Android with their next smartphone purchase, while 18 per cent of Android owners will move to Apple, Yankee found.
"Apple's high 91 per cent 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 eco-system," Howe wrote.
If Android wants to top iOS, Howe argued, Google needs to reinforce the Android eco-system brand. Allowing phone makers to offer customised versions of Android, he said, "deliver[s] a sub-par experience that doesn't generate Android loyalty." He also encouraged Google to take advantage of its Motorola acquisition and have the company build its next flagship Nexus phones.
Nokia, meanwhile, needs to target Nokia feature phone upgraders, while BlackBerry's best bet is in the enterprise, Yankee concluded.
A Friday report from IDC found that smartphone shipments surpassed those of feature phones for the first time this quarter. Android heavyweight Samsung was the undisputed handset leader, shipping more units than Apple, LG, Huawei, and ZTE combined, with 70.7 million; and that's before the arrival of the Galaxy S4.