Smartphone makers face fight for fickle customers

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Apple fans are loyal, but the rest of smartphone makers have to fight to keep their customers

Smartphone manufacturers will have to fight to hang onto customers as most have scant brand loyalty, according to a study.

The GfK survey found that more than half of all smartphone owners (56%) were undecided over their next handests, with only Apple commanding a significant degree of loyalty.

With features from GPS and media players to Wi-Fi increasingly the norm across the board, owners of web-enabled phones are most concerned with the ease of access to services and app stores.

"People are really keeping their options open," Ryan Garner, the lead analyst on the GfK survey, told PC Pro. "There's been an explosion of new choices in the market over the last year, with Android and Windows Phone 7, and with new versions of Symbian, the RIM OS and Meego in the pipeline there is huge choice."

The survey found that only 25% of smartphone owners planned to stay loyal to the operating system running their phone, with loyalty highest among Apple users at 59%, and lowest for Microsoft's mobile software, at 21%.

Just over a third of Research in Motion's BlackBerry users said they would stay loyal, compared with 28% for users of phones running Google's Android software, and 24% for users of Nokia Symbian phones.

"Apple people are more loyal, but that's always been the case in the Apple community," said Garner. "In the emerging markets, Nokia was more dominant and that dragged the overall figure down."

The figures were somewhat skewed by the virtual absence of high-loyalty handsets, such as the iPhone, in emerging markets like China.

GfK also found that 37% of "dumb" handsets owners planned to upgrade to a smartphone with their next handset.

The firm conducted the survey of 2,653 mobile phone users in Britain, the US, Brazil, Germany, Spain and China.

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