Why Apple doesn't care that a quarter of all iPhone users eventually switch to Android

iPhone 12
iPhone 12 (Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Apple doesn't care that nearly 26% of its users switch to different platforms between quarters because it is focusing on encouraging users to buy all of the products in its broader functional ecosystem, experts say. They add that users are likely switching over to Android phones to save money.

During the Epic Games vs. Apple trial, internal documents showed evidence of "meaningful switching" of smartphone users quarter-over-quarter. The highest percentage of users switching was between Q1 2020 and Q2 2020, which saw 26% of users switch from iOS to Android. This timeframe is particularly interesting as it marks the period that typically follows the announcement and release of new iPhones.

iOS-Android-switching

Source: Apple (Image credit: Source: Apple)
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Epic Games said during the trial that Apple's App Store is anti-competitive and monopolistic, and doesn't allow developers to earn fairly. Apple said during the trial that "Epic wants us to be Android, but we don't want to be," and indicated that there needs to be a single highly curated App Store in order to protect users' privacy, security, and reliability.

Ben Bajarin, CEO and principal analyst at Creative Strategies in California, said in an interview that a lot of people thought the number of users switching away from Apple was a lot smaller, and that more people were switching away from Android.

"The point (Apple) was trying to make, and questionable as to whether it's a valid point, is that people do switch. They're certainly not switching 40% of the time, but they use that stat and say look 20% or somewhere north of that some, on a quarterly basis, do leave iOS to go to an Android," he said.

"Their point is that switching does happen, but again it goes both ways; there's growth to their platform. People do switch from Android to iOS, but in general, it's not a large number."

Would having iMessage on Android make a difference?

iMessage open on an iPhone X

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

During the same trial between Epic Games and Apple, it was revealed that Apple was in favor of bringing iMessage to Android as early as 2013. The company wasn't convinced that this would be the right move and said it would "take more than a marginally better app" to get users to switch to iMessage from the best Android Messaging apps such as WhatsApp. Apple said that iMessage on Android "would simply serve to remove an obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones."

Bajarin indicated that perhaps if Android phones had services like iMessage, the percentage of switching over might be higher, but it really isn't a factor for why users are switching now.

"My gut would say, maybe that number would be a little bit higher for someone who is just willing to try something different. But most of those people came back to iPhones for other reasons. I don't think iMessage alone is essentially a deal-breaker," he said. "Users just wanted to try something different. They tried it, vetted it, and was like I still prefer iOS."

So why do users switch from iOS to Android?

Google Pixel 4a

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

Neil Shah, vice-president of research at Counterpoint Research, said in an interview that one reason many users switch is because they find better deals for other phones.

"Many iPhone users have been holding on to their phones longer, so by the time when they are ready to upgrade (they see that), the price of flagship new iPhones have gotten more expensive. So many users who can't afford and find an attractive carrier or OEM deal are likely to switch," he said, adding that a brand new OnePlus flagship is almost a third of the price of an iPhone flagship.

In China, users spend the most time in one or two apps such as WeChat, so it doesn't matter to them if they are on an iOS or Android.

Shah also explained that many iPhone users have hand-me-downs or refurbished phones, in which case the phone's user experience isn't optimum, "so when they are due for an upgrade, they are also likely to shift out of the iOS ecosystem unless they are locked in."

"There's also a case where some Android users might have moved to an iPhone but couldn't get used to the UI or felt claustrophobic coming from an open system like Android, so they switch back or out of an iPhone," he said.

And in some cases, the user is focused on what apps they are using most and don't necessarily care about the type of phone they're using, Shah added.

When you buy a phone, you're buying a lifestyle and Apple has created that ecosystem

Apple-Airpods

Source: Apple (Image credit: Source: Apple)

Shah added that Apple has also been a "master" at locking users into an ecosystem, making it difficult to switch to another platform. He said that smartphone users who are on their second or third smartphone are more likely to decide if an ecosystem benefits their lifestyle.

"Some smart users are also cognizant of being locked into an ecosystem and understand that switching costs especially for iOS and make their choices accordingly if they want to (switch) or not," he said.

In the case of Apple, the company has been able to lock down the integration of products in a seamless way, Shah said, creating a sense of "premium-ness."

Lifestyle and premium-ness becomes a factor for aspiration and also actually choosing the ecosystem," Shah said. "For example, premium-ness of the Apple Watch of the seamlessness of AirPods or sticky features such as the AirDrop within the Apple ecosystem are some good examples to attract users to the Apple iPhone and its ecosystem.

I don't see a cohesive roadmap for Google to take on Apple's ecosystem

Google Fit Smartwatch Lifestyle

Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

Carmi Levy, a technology analyst, said that the percentage of users that fall under the category looking for a better deal lies somewhere around 20%, and that number is going down every year.

You're not just buying a device, you're buying a lifestyle, and you're buying services, so as time goes on, that window for selling just the phone is getting smaller.

He added that a good percentage of those people do not see phones as part of a broader ecosystem. "I think over time, that percentage of the overall market is getting smaller. In other words, as time goes on, more and more smartphone consumers are beginning to see phones as not just devices, but as centers of a broader ecosystem that they are buying into," he said.

Levy says that this shift has tilted towards Apple's advantage because the company has "arguably the most highly evolved ecosystems of services in the entire market," adding that Google has struggled to find its way with building an ecosystem.

More recently, Google announced it has teamed up with Samsung for all future smartwatch efforts and to create a "unified experience."

Levy explained that WearOS has arguably been a disaster since day one and has gone through multiple rebranding efforts. But even this partnership hasn't convinced Levy that Google will be able to create an ecosystem that can compete with Apple's

"Google wishes that it were in a position, certainly throwing anything at the wall to try to regain some kind of traction and thus far has failed and there's no guarantee that its recently announced partnership with Samsung is going to succeed where previous efforts have failed," he said. "I don't see a cohesive roadmap for Google that would realistically take Apple on in this way."

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Shruti Shekar
Managing Editor

Shruti Shekar is Android Central's managing editor. She was born in India, brought up in Singapore, but now lives in Toronto and couldn't be happier. She started her journalism career as a political reporter in Ottawa, Canada's capital, and then made her foray into tech journalism at MobileSyrup and most recently at Yahoo Finance Canada. When work isn't on her mind, she loves working out, reading thrillers, watching the Raptors, and planning what she's going to eat the next day.

34 Comments
  • Good analysis and excellently written article.
  • I carry both and despite myriad privacy and security concerns with regards to Android feeding the Google Data Monster (and associated third-parties), I still prefer (Pixel) Android to IOS (I'm also a Mac user). However I always strongly recommend IOS to friends and family if there is any chance that they'll call me for help when things go sideways.
  • I feel the same even though I have an 11 Pro Max and an S20 FE but I'll be switched back to a Pixel with a 4a 5G after 3 years because I've realized that is what I prefer, clean and pure Android with no bloatware apps and day 1 updates and the iPhone fulfills 2 of the the things I value most in a smartphone but the iOS software is the thing I don't particularly like about my iPhone as I find iOS boring and restrictive.
  • I'm a long time Apple user with a rack of iPhones on my desk. I switched because of battery life, better photography capabilities, and 32-bit/384kHz audio that will drive my Sennheisers that iPhones don't have enough power for. Someone wake me up when iPhone audio is no longer dull and lifeless.
  • You're joking right? My 11 Pro Max puts my S20 FE to shame in audio.
  • Your comparing a flagship to a mid range phone there with a big price difference.
  • Fair point, I had an Tab S7+ and the speakers were mediocre next to my sister's iPad Pro so I sold it so the comparison is fair there.
  • "Mediocre" seems like a pretty strong word to qualify the speakers of Samsung's tablets. According to Notebookcheck, the Tab S7+'s speakers are in the top 3% of all tested devices, while the iPad Pro 12.9 2020's are in the top 2%.
    The iPad has slightly more powerful bass, but is also not as loud as the Tab S7+. My Tab S5e (which is a 2-year-old midrange tablet with 4 speakers) sounds nearly as good as the XPS 15 2020 – which is one of the best laptops for sound quality.
    That's far from "mediocre"... I doubt that the S7+ sounds worse.
  • My sister's iPad 12.9 2020 is much louder and has fuller sound than my Tab S7+ when both are at Maximum volume, Samsung dropped the ball with the speakers on the S7+, even my 11 Pro Max has more powerful base than my Tab S7+ and that's shameful from Samsung and I expected much better from them in audio.
  • ...because "base" is all that is important in audio tests.
    Subjective opinion, be happy with "moar base" less volume and clarity.
  • They're also using 32-bit/384kHz audio on high end headphones. I'm guessing you're not.
  • I enjoyed this article, thank you.
  • All the Pros are Cons for me :D. Apple's locked in ecosystem is a negative not a positive. iMessage is only a thing if you're American. Outside of the US iPhone users user WhatsApp too.
  • Hey, thanks for reading! I would agree too, and this is what Neil Shah and Ben Bajarin said. Bajarin told me that iMessage really isn't a factor in why someone would switch platforms and added that that people are looking for other reasons as to why they would switch. In the case of Apple, that factor was mostly privacy. Shah explained that there are so many other chatting applications that people use. For example in China people are using WeChat and it doesn't matter if they were using it on an iPhone or Android.
  • I'm just glad the days are gone where certain people shamed their 'friends' and family for having 'green messages' and creating a toxic tech culture around stupid color, as these people most likely didn't know the difference between encrypted or non.
  • SHRUTI SHEKAR: Do you realize your article contains forty-four incidences of the dreaded word, that? A few short paragraphs contain three, that, word; enough already! While reading your article each that becomes similar to hearing a speaker continually saying, "ah" "um", ad nauseam. Every that can safely be removed then the sentences and paragraphs will read and flow considerably better.
  • Yup. My composition teacher used to call it "Whoery, whichery, and thatary."
  • Interesting numbers but if that was all there is to the story, iPhone would have virtually no users after a few years. That's not the reality, so users must be switching the other way as well. If we are looking at percentages, with Android having 80% of market share, it doesn't take many percent to switch to iOS to make up for the 20% of the 20% (market share) moving to Android. There's always brand new users too, on both sides of course. All told, Apple doesn't seem to be loosing users over all.
  • Only in the US is where Apple isn't losing customers because outside the US Android is dominant.
  • American teenage girls are obsessed with fitting in and status. iPhone is for them, they also watch Kardashians and Jennifer Lopez.
  • That's true, the iPhone is a Kardashian phone, and American teenage girls all want to be the "next," Kardashian lol.
  • I agree. These numbers seem a little off but it makes a great sensational headline that Android fans will slobber over. But whatever. I continue to use and love my iPhone. And for fun I will occasionally get an Android to see what I am missing but I always end up back on my iPhone. I am looking forward to seeing what the Pixel 6 offers along with Android 12 but I am sure it will not be enough to make me switch. I do not care bout customization, rooting or whatever else you guys do with Android that I can not do on my iPhone. But I do know my iPhone is very stable, reliable and does everything I need it to do. I do not feel locked in because I use a mix of services that would work with any OS.
  • I use Android because of its flexibility and the ability to download apps outside the Play Store rather than the customisation aspect but that's important too but to a lesser extent for me. I have an iPhone 11 Pro Max but only because of my sister but I use Android as my primary device although the Android device I'm using isn't my favourite, that would be a Pixel (which I'll soon be getting) for the fantastic Google software that's simple to use as well as the day 1 updates and fantastic point and shoot cameras that are arguably better than the iPhone and most Android phones thanks to Google's brilliant computational photography and AI.
  • Hey, thanks for reading!! You're ABSOLUTELY right and it was a point that I did miss including my article. Ben Bajarin indicated in my interview with him that global data indicates loyalty to the platform in the case of iOS and Android is not that dissimilar "both in the 80 percentile." He says: this would "line up with Apple's numbers of you know basically seeing 80% loyalty on an average and I would imagine that Android sees somewhat similar." Noting in my article that Apple is saying that switching does happen but that it goes both ways and that in general, it's not a large number. "It holds up basically 80% ish loyalty to both platforms and that I would say is consistent, so it's not a negligible number but it's also not a large number."
  • Hey, thanks for reading!! You're ABSOLUTELY right and it was a point that I did miss including my article. Ben Bajarin indicated in my interview with him that global data indicates loyalty to the platform in the case of iOS and Android is not that dissimilar "both in the 80 percentile." He says: this would "line up with Apple's numbers of you know basically seeing 80% loyalty on an average and I would imagine that Android sees somewhat similar." Noting in my article that Apple is saying that switching does happen but that it goes both ways and that in general, it's not a large number. "It holds up basically 80% ish loyalty to both platforms and that I would say is consistent, so it's not a negligible number but it's also not a large number."
  • I'm leaning toward the opposite. I haven't had an iPhone since the 4, but I'm getting so sick of the constant Google glitches and bugs in every product they put out. I'm not saying that iPhone is perfect, but I'll probably try it as my next phone to see if they do it right or not.
  • I've had not much glitches on my iPhone but my S20 FE is another matter, I've had alt of app crashes which is something I've not had since my Nexus 6 plus my S20 FE is sometimes slow, I know I won't have These issues with my Pixel 4a 5G when I get it in August.
  • Having iMessage on android would cause a LOT of people to drop iPhone. so Apple will never do it.
    Texting on android is still pretty much a bad joke, at best.
    I carry a Pixel 5 and iPhone 12 mini. (sold my S21, Pixel 5 is a better phone) Love the Pixel 5.
    But like someone else said, there are also 20% of android users switching to iPhone just like iPhone to android. At the end of the quarter, neither really gained or lost more than 1-2%. Apple sells phones from $399 to $1499 so unless they need a phone in the sub $399 range. switching because of cost isn't really a thing.
    I still recommend iOS to anyone and everyone. it really is better than android in 9 out of 10 ways for the average user. (not power users)
  • I'd say Android is better than iOS which is just boring to me but for family, I'd recommend an iPhone as the majority of my family is not tech savvy but the Pixel is just as good as , no better than an iPhone and I only use an iPhone because of my sister but prefer Android now and currently use an S20 FE but once I get my Pixel 4a 5G I'll be selling my S20 FE as I prefer the Pixel software experience and having day 1 updates.
  • Everybody I know uses WhatsApp, but not everybody I know uses iMessage. So having an iPhone to be able to use iMessage makes little sense and a bad reason to stick with iPhone unless you like everything else about it's locked down system.
    My backup phone is an iPhone but I use WhatsApp on it and not iMessage. imessage is way overrated anyway. Back in the day it was a big deal, not so much anymore.
  • How many different and low priced Android phones by different manufactures are they compared to Apple having just a few, all labeled APPLE? And I know of NO ONE who has owned an Apple for years, switching, while I do know two Android users who have switched to Apple. That is a very, very small number; and it is based on those over 50. And I would probably switch to Apple in a second, except, thanks to my last job, I get my Android phones highly modified to prevent evil google from doing what they do best, spy on people. And, those who I know, use their smart phone, be it android or apple, primarily as a phone, a messaging device and secondary as a computer device to surf the net and not sure if any, use it for any type of gaming.
  • I haven't and would never use apple's eco system, but I understand why people do, the issues is if you leave iOS to android it doesn't play nicely with other Apple products. If iMessage came to android would it really make a real difference maybe a little bit but not much. Most people sit in 2 camps android or iOS
  • "I don't see a cohesive roadmap for Google that would realistically take Apple on in this way." i don't agree with this statement at all. In fact in the last year alone I think Google has made great strides in reenforcing its software ecosystem, without forcing you to exclusively buy hardware products made by them. The last major gap, IMO, was an Airdrop equivalent, but Google just launched Nearby Share to ChromeOS, effectively bridging it. I use both Apple and Google powered devices all the time, and I would argue that, unless you're rely on iMessage (which I don't, since I live in Whatappland) and can't switch, there's very little or no "integration" between an iPhone + iPad/Mac + Watch combo that you don't get with an Android phone + Chromebook + Watch combo. And with things like the new Wear platform,