Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:

  • When activating a new phone, Android users stayed with the brand 91% of the time. — CIRP, 2018
  • For iOS, users remained loyal to the brand 86% of the time, and the discrepancy between Android and iOS loyalty is widening. — CIRP, 2018

Android has managed to top iOS in a recent study on brand loyalty by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP).

The group found that when users are activating a new phone, 91% stay with the Android brand, while only 86% stay with iOS. While the difference may be small, Google’s Android controls almost 75% of the global smartphone market, and its brand loyalty is higher than it’s ever been.

“With only two mobile operating systems at this point, it appears users now pick one, learn it, invest in apps and storage, and stick with it. Now, Apple and Google need to figure out how to sell products and services to these loyal customer bases,” Mike Levin, partner and co-founder of CIRP, wrote in the study.

“iOS and Android compete more aggressively as the number of first-time smartphone buyers shrinks,” continued Levin. “With fewer users of the legacy smartphone operating systems, basic phone owners, and first-time mobile phone buyers, Android and iOS now mostly gain and lose users to the other operating system.”

Experts have pegged a variety of reasons for the difference in loyalty, with most pointing to the availability of different phones carrying the Android system as opposed to iOS. Android users can switch phones and manufacturers but still use the same operating system, potentially making them more likely to stick with the brand.

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“The vast majority of people moving back and forth between Apple and Android are doing so because of price, frustration with prior phones, or anger over perceived product failures, as when Apple removed the headphone jack and many customers decided that was a bridge too far,” James McQuivey, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research told TechRepublic.

McQuivey added: “Most consumers of most brands consume out of a combination of convenience and habit, which is certainly true for mobile platforms because once you are in one, it is a hassle to switch. But within each set of continued users is the loyal subset, that group that believes the product is best, right, even morally superior.”

Despite the edge in loyalty, Android’s large user base meant the number of people switching from their operating system to iOS was greater than the reverse. Yet with Samsung, LG, Google, Motorola and other companies producing phones for Android, they have the upper hand when it comes to attracting new smartphone users, the study noted.

“As for OS brand loyalty, its tied up in lot variables as with Android there are many companies and products in the mix including Android OEMs and the carriers,” Brian Blau, a researcher at Gartner, told TechRepublic.

iOS users in online message boards said Apple needed to do a better job of opening up their system and making it more customizable. The lack of variety in phone design and malleability of the software was frustrating even for iOS users who had no intention of switching to Android.

“For most brands, rather than build loyalty, you focus on usability. That usability can, over time, translate into a kind of emotional connection that approximates loyalty,” McQuivey said. Later adding: “Measured in usability and customer satisfaction, this kind of customer connection is easier to accomplish and worth more in the long run, because it can’t be hijacked as easily by new trendy things.”

Android only had a 75%-80% brand loyalty rate in 2014, well below that of iOS, according to CIRP data. But by January 2016, Android had far surpassed iOS, reaching a brand loyalty rate of beyond 90%.