Android’s Leaky Bucket
John Paczkowski over at AllThingsD covered a report written by Carl Howe, VP of the Yankee Group. Carl makes a bold statement, indicating iPhone ownership in the US will exceed Android US ownership by 2015.
Carl has developed an analogy using the idea of a leaky bucket. In short, he proposes that if platforms are a thought of as a bucket and their buyers comprise the water that fills it. Therefore how "leaky" a bucket is refers to a consumer intent to buy something else. What Carl's consumer survey research shows is that the Android bucket is leaking faster than the iPhone bucket.
A couple of stats to highlight from the Yankee Group survey.
- 91 percent of iPhone owners intend to buy another iPhone
- 6 percent plan to switch to an Android device with their next purchase
- 76 percent of Android owners intend to buy another Android phone
- 24 percent of Android phone users plan to switch to another platform
- of those professed (Android) switchers, 18 percent plan on buying iPhones.
While 76% plan on remaining faithful to Android, 91% plan on remaining faithful to the iPhone. Carl's point is that the Android bucket is leaking faster than the iPhone's.
So ultimately platform loyalty is the key indicator here from a sustainability standpoint. The key to Carl's theory, however, will be the decisions of the lower end and new smartphone buyers, not necessarily purely switchers.
I'd again argue that the anticipated behavior of both the lower end market, who probably bought a cheap or free Android devices as their first smartphone, along with smartphone intenders, favors Carl's theory. How many smartphones on the market will be able to compete with a $99 subsidized iPhone 5? Probably only the Galaxy S3, arguably.
I'm not sold on the idea that everyone in the US who wants an iPhone has one. However, I'm also not convinced that the category is fully mature from a consumer adoption standpoint. What I specifically mean when I say that is, i'm not sure the market has fully experimented with different devices, platforms, software, etc., in order to fully define their needs, wants, and desires. Once this happens we will truly see a much clearer picture of platform share and sustainability.
One thing our research continually shows, as does the Yankee Groups and a host of others, is that once consumers get into the Apple ecosystem, they rarely leave.
Which makes one single point perhaps the most significant. The key for Apple is not necessarily to get consumers to buy all their products at this very moment. Rather, to just get consumers to buy one, which acts as the gateway to their ecosystem.
* Caveat. Surveys are, of course, not always an exact indicator of future behavior. However, I have seen more than a few solid data points that support this data. Also, without knowing specific device plans of Apple or competitors the timing is also hard to predict. What Carl proposes could happen sooner or later. This is why I mentioned the market adoption cycles and experimentation still taking place.