In our first look at the purchase interest and intent of the Mobile Nations' communities, we tapped into the level of demand for tablets, watches, and TV boxes being offered by the biggest smartphone providers. But the smartphone itself remains the primary digital device for many, and plenty of companies have debuted offerings in the past few months that vied to become holiday purchases — or at least a last-minute buy before the calendar flips over.
So late last month, we asked over 5,700 readers of Android Central, CrackBerry, iMore and Windows Central to share their thoughts on what could be taking their calls. Even the smartphones that garnered the most interest didn't muster the same amount of attention as some of the hot (and newer) non-smartphone products like as Android Wear, Apple TV and the Surface Book.
There are likely numerous reasons for this. First, there is far greater competition in the smartphone market and so there's more to dilute consumer interest in any given model. Second, unlike the new platforms and novel form factors discussed in our last article, the staid monoblock form factor has dominated the smartphone landscape for years now. Third, the contracts that once suppressed holiday season smartphone purchases have been replaced by upgrade plans that have a similar effect of spreading out smartphone purchases throughout the year. Therefore, particularly for devices that debuted earlier in the year, such as the LG G4 and Galaxy S6, many who may have been interested in those devices may have already purchased them.
All this said, some phones certainly fared better — and dramatically so — when it came to whether early adopters were interested in purchasing them or intended to purchase them before the end of 2015.
One clear trend among Android phone owners in our community is that their next phone is likely to be large and true to stock Android. Three of the five top Android phones on their list featured screens over 5.5". In addition, three of them (the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P and Moto X 2015 Pure Edition) embrace Android as Google has conceived it, with a fourth (the BlackBerry Priv) coming pretty close both in terms of both stock purity and phablet contention.
Given BlackBerry's long history in mobile (many of you likely had a BlackBerry as your first smartphone) and the quiet clamoring of a subset of users for a good Android keyboard phone, it's not too surprising to see such a strong embrace of the Priv. Indeed, among Android phones, it ranked the second highest in terms of imminent purchase intent, with 6% of current Android phone owners (including perhaps some former BlackBerry owners) planning to lay down dollars to pick up the privacy-focused keyboard slider.
The big dog by far, though, was the Nexus 6P, with nearly half of Android phone owners interested in purchasing it and 13 percent planning to buy one before the end of 2015. Indeed, nearly twice as many Android phone owners would opt for the Nexus 6P versus the 5X. The 5X, though, was no slouch, ranking third overall and attracting purchase interest from nearly a quarter of Android phone owners.
Sandwiched between them was the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, which nearly 30% of Android phone owners said they were interested in purchasing. 2015 saw a significant redesign of the historically plastic Note and improvements to its S Pen stylus. These seem to have been enough to stave off some competition from its stablemate, the Galaxy 6 edge+, which boasts a thinner, and arguably cooler, curved screen design. The newcomer virtually tied with the LG G4 in terms of of both purchase interest and intent and fell below the even newer video-focused LG V10, which also offers an extended secondary display for quick access tools.
Both of the larger Samsung phones placed higher than the smaller and older Galaxy S6 devices which, as noted earlier, may have already been purchased by those eager to snap up Samsung's current generation of Galaxy S devices. While its screen may be shatterproof, demand for the Motorola Droid Turbo 2 was not. The Motorola flagship variant for Verizon had to contend with both carrier exclusivity and the software meddling of Verizon, despite Motorola having convinced Big Red to ease back a bit on the customizing. Also featuring a lighter skinning touch than in years past is the HTC One A9. The device, which hews closer to the iPhone's design than previous One devices like the M8 and M9, just isn't showing the overall muscle of more popular, larger devices.
In contrast to the clear preference for bigger phones shown by Android users, iPhone users were split just about evenly between the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. A middling 14 percent of current iPhone owners planned to upgrade to one of Apple's newest smartphones in the near future. The relatively low number could be due in part to the relative burst of upgrades that accompany the launch of a new iPhone, landing well before the holiday season, with Apple showing record numbers for those upgrading early. However, at Apple's volumes, even 14% would represent a lot of shiny fruit logos moving quickly out of small white boxes.
Apple also likes to talk up how many Android owners are switching to iPhone. We saw some limited evidence of that, with nearly 10% of Android phone owners considering jumping ship for the iPhone 6s Plus although immediate purchase intent was quite low. As for those crossing over the other way, only the Nexus 6P and Galaxy Note 5 — the same two phones most likely to woo Android users — came close to having a similar level of appeal to iPhone owners as the iPhone has to Android phone owners. The Note 5 fared particularly well, with 12% of iPhone users expressing interest in purchasing it. Only 1%, though, were prepared to do so before the end of 2015. In other words, while both Android and iPhone users may flirt with their main competitive OS, they're very rarely willing to commit to changing their relationship status.
The Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL are the first Windows flagships to not only bear the Microsoft brand, but also the first to drop the "Windows Phone" operating system in favor of Windows 10 Mobile. The prolonged wait for a new king of the Windows phone hill has resulted in some pent-up demand, with about a quarter of current Windows Phone owners expressing interest in both the 950 and 950 XL and a high 9% saying they were planning to upgrade to the larger Windows device by the end of 2015.
The better news for Microsoft, though, was that a similar if not higher percentage of Windows PC owners — a far larger group — expressed similar sentiment. The company's message of ecosystem integration may be paying off even as Microsoft embraces rival mobile operating systems more fully. Windows PC owners may also like the idea of recreating (much of) their desktop OS experience using the new phones' Continuum feature.
On the other hand, as with iPhone owners, the Note 5 also held a lot of appeal with 20% of Windows Phone owners expressing interest in it; the number was even higher (39%) for Windows PC owners. Also as with the iPhone owners, though, a minuscule percentage of Windows Phone owners actually saw themselves picking one up imminently.
We already noted the BlackBerry Priv's appeal among current Android phone owners. BlackBerry owners, though, were even more eager to embrace the first smartphone that eschews BlackBerry 10 for Google-flavored Android. About 30% of current BlackBerry owners expressed interest in purchasing a Priv.
What was more impressive, though, was the number of BlackBerry owners planning to pony up for privacy, privilege and (Google) Play. About 11% of BlackBerry owners said they intended to buy a Priv before the end of 2015. That was the second highest intent percentage overall among the four phone ownership camps, trailing just Android phone owner intent to purchase a Nexus 6P.
Indeed, BlackBerry owners' interest in the Priv did not extend to other Android phones. No other phone — not even the otherwise strongly-embraced Note 5 — drew interest from more than 10% of BlackBerry owners, and no others tempted even 1% of BlackBerry owners to purchase them before the end of 2015. The BlackBerry flock may be smaller than in years past, but it's dedicated to BlackBerry regardless of their choice of OS.
For this article, Mobile Nations surveyed 5,757 Web site visitors from the U.S. and Canada between November 25th and December 5th, 2015.
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Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm (the old one), and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.