New research shows that consumers' loyalty lies with either Android or iOS and their apps ecosystem and not with the manufacturer that built their current phone.
According to insights and analysis firm Kantar Worldpanel, when it comes to upgrading or trading in, only 41% of today's smartphone owners chose to remain loyal to the same smartphone brand. However, 68% decide to stick with the same operating system.
The news will mean absolutely nothing to Apple of course, as customers who stay loyal to its iOS operating system have no choice but to also remain loyal to the iPhone.
However, for the ever growing number of firms that build Android devices, this is a huge challenge.
The report points to Samsung's efforts over the past two years to make itself visible as a brand, and a valuable one at that, as well as a maker of good phones. And the work it has been doing is paying off.
Samsung is by far the world's leading Android handset maker. Gartner's latest figures, published this month, indicate that the company sold a total of 299,794,900 smartphones in 2013, giving it a 30% share of the global handset market, regardless of operating system.
Therefore, expect other companies, from HTC to LG, to try harder to market their brands over the coming year and to attempt to make an emotional connection with customers.
Kantar points to the fact that loyalty and satisfaction when it comes to smartphone ownership is usually dicated by on-going user experience. The phone has to impress and be simple to use over the first six months in particular. But, as the average network contract now runs for two years, the handset must continue to offer a good experience for longer.
Due to the way in which Andorid software updates are pushed out to handset, this can be a real sticking point. Often the owner has no idea when or if a software update will ever come to his or her device.
Unlike other research, Kantar Worldpanel, as its name suggests, uses a global panel of consumers that it continuously monitors, questions and interviews in order to bring greater insights to the data it gathers.
A separate report into smartphone brand loyalty also published this week by Xerox found that 76% of Apple customers replace their iPhone with another iPhone, while 34% of all consumers switching device brands choose Samsung. The Korean phone maker also scored the highest among all Android device makers for loyalty and customer retention, managing to retain 58% of consumers following the upgrade cycle.
"For smartphone manufacturers, brand retention is one of the most important metrics to track. It's a very solid indication of how successful their device upgrade cycles have been in retaining customers," explains Tim Deluca-Smith, vice president of Marketing at WDS, A Xerox Company. "Both Apple and Samsung are doing very well in keeping customers excited and loyal to their product roadmaps."
However, there is also some good news for Nokia: it is the third strongest phone brand for customer retention, managing to hold on to 33% of its customers and snag an 8% share of migrating customers.