Cell phones: Where are the brand switchers, and where are the loyalists?

Graeme BruceBusiness Data Journalist
February 17, 2021, 1:49 PM UTC

In some markets, a consumer’s choice of smartphone brand is as much a part of their identity as their politics. You are either an iPhone person or an Android person. 

This brand loyalty may come from the fact that consumers are buying much more than a phone and much more than a brand name. They’re buying into deep ecosystems that include cloud storage, music subscriptions, and compatibility with other devices, making a brand switch unappealing for many. 

Global YouGov data offers a glimpse into how consumers feel about switching brands in some markets and where manufacturers may find success in attracting consumers from the competition. 

In the United States, for instance, appetite for changing brands is quite low. Only 29% of US adults say they’d switch brands when they’re ready to upgrade their device. Consideration for the top two brands in the market clearly show the polarity: only about a third (34%) of US consumers say they’d consider an iPhone as their next device, while 30% say so for Samsung. Similar figures emerge in the United Kingdom, which is also a mature smartphone market. Here, 30% of consumers tell us that they are somewhat likely to switch brands when they are next in the market for a new device. 

But such loyalty isn’t apparent in every market. 

In Brazil -- one of the great emerging markets in South America -- nearly three in five  consumers (59%) say they’re willing to ditch their current brand for another. Further, YouGov consumer data shows Brazilians in general are much more open to trying new brands (76%) compared to the UK (58%) and the US (59%), regardless of product. 

Meanwhile, in the United Arab Emirates, about seven in ten (69%) consumers are likely to ditch their current device brand. While iPhone remains the most popular device in the market, consumers are hungry for the next big thing with less regard for brand compared to other markets. 

What does it take to attract the consumer? In the UK and the US, consumer wants are largely the same: battery life (63% in the US, 61% in the UK). value for money (55% and55%), camera quality (46% and 46%), memory (47% and47%) are the top features consumers look for in a phone. Far down that list is brand (29% in the US, 26% in the UK). 

Methodology: Brand-switching data is based on the question: “How likely or unlikely are you to switch your mobile/cellphone brand when you get your next mobile?” Sample sizes were 8,436 in Brazil, 103,482 in Great Britain, 4,515 in the United Arab Emirates and 28,194 in the United States. Interviews were conducted online between December 2019 and December 2020.