In the never-ending race between Apple and Samsung for mobile dominance, trade-in data shows that iPhone users are switching to Samsung. Trade-in site BankMyCell assessed data from iPhone trade-ins since October 2018. The site reports that 2019 trade-ins show 15% less iPhone loyalty as compared to 2018 trade-ins. The majority of "sell-outs" (or "trade-tors" instead of "traitors," see what I did there?) are turning in their iPhones and turning to the Samsung Galaxy brand for their next smartphone(s).
The Q4 2018-Q2 2019 study also shows that iPhone brand retention is the lowest it has been since 2011, compared to other studies, as only 70.8% of iPhone users remained with Apple during the study for 2019 as compared to 91% iPhone brand loyalty in BankMyCell's 2018 study. As for the Samsung Galaxy brand, the site saw that as of June 2019, 18% of iPhone "trade-tors" had a Samsung Galaxy device, the highest iPhone loyalty switch the site has seen in its study to date.
On average, 12.4% of iPhone trade-ins picked up Samsung Galaxy phones, while 6.4% of iPhone traders jumped ship to LG. 14.9% of former iPhone loyalists went to other OEMs, presumably Android OEMs. Unsurprisingly, 1.9% of iPhone traders didn't know the name of their phone brand.
66.4% of iPhone users remained loyal to Apple following the release of the iPhone XS/XS Max/iPhone XR smartphones, while 24.5% of iPhone users jumped ship to other brands. 13.8% moved to Samsung, the majority of iPhone trade-ins, but LG managed to grab 8.2% of iPhone trade-ins and Motorola grabbed 2.5%.
Apple did manage to pick up 5.7% of its iPhone switchers in Q1 2019 after losing them in Q4 2018 to Samsung and LG, but Samsung won back 2.2% of iPhone switchers in Q2 2019, with 72.5% remaining with Apple after trade-ins. The study compiled data from 38,043 individuals.
Studies comparing brand loyalty between Apple (iPhone) and Samsung (Galaxy) are always interesting to read because it's been said down through the years that these two brands have the highest brand loyalty of any phone makers on the market. And, if this study is true, the claim still holds solid. Apple and Samsung users seem to be the happiest mobile users on the planet, which explains why few (if any) switch outside Apple and Samsung.
Even with BankMyCell's claim that Apple has the lowest retention rate ever seen after such a massive iPhone release, Apple still has over 70% brand loyalty — and that's a hard feat to achieve year after year. Even in years of iterative sales where Apple releases an "S" upgrade that looks much like last year's release, Apple has always retained many iPhone users post-announcement.
But what the study does show, interestingly enough, is that some iPhone users out there are switching to Samsung. Apparently, some users may believe that they've been tied down to Apple for too long and are dissatisfied with their experience.
The removal of the headphone jack in the iPhone 7, for example, may have caused some iPhone loyalists to move to Samsung now that they're trading in their iPhone after two years. If the latest Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 10+ leaks show anything worth banking on, some iPhone switchers may just switch back to Apple a few months from now.
Another reason, and a bigger one, pertains to the lack of brand loyalty after the release of the iPhone XS. According to the study, "last year's iPhone XS was in the lowest devices for Apple loyalty, with 65.3% of users currently using an Apple device."
The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max "piggyback" off the iPhone X, which may have moved users to give another phone a try. 18.5% of all those who traded in the iPhone XS moved to Samsung's Galaxy.
Price may have been a reason for some iPhone users to switch over to "the dark side" of mobile. In fact, Apple's iPhone XR announcement was designed to prevent budget-friendly iPhone users from jumping ship to Android.
Apple, who has hardly ever concerned itself with budget-friendly smartphones outside the iPhone 5c, for example, priced at $99 for 16GB and $199 for 32GB variants, didn't release the iPhone XR to see lower profits. The iPhone XR is a testimony to the strength of budget-friendly Android brands and the needs of customers to save money wherever they can.
So the study presents two realities. First, iPhone users are stubbornly loyal, a feat that makes Apple too complacent at times to innovate in the smartphone market rather than copy and paste what Samsung and Android as a whole are doing.
Second, iPhone switchers are turning mostly to Samsung, though LG and Motorola are getting some love, too, in addition to Chinese Android OEM OnePlus. Samsung isn't swallowing all iPhone switchers in the study, so the study seems legitimate in that it factors in the complexity of human decisions and personal phone preferences.
What must be taken into account in brand loyalty studies is something that such studies cannot measure: that is, the personal motivations of iPhone switchers. BankMyCell has done a good job to assess iPhone trade-ins.
While the study suggests that Samsung is winning the majority of iPhone switchers, the study cannot show why the majority of iPhone switchers move to Samsung. If, for example, an iPhone switcher picks up a Samsung Galaxy S9, the study is unable to tell exactly why the user did so.
Finally, the grand takeaway from all of this is that brand loyalty isn't as blind as many often assume it is. A number of iPhone XS switchers, for example, may have been loyal to the brand for years, only to switch because of the rising strength of Android brands. Maybe it can be said that most iPhone users, like most Android users, are loyal — until they're not.