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It's a Digital Jungle Out There, or Is It?

As consumers add mobile and connected devices into their lives, they are creating an ecosystem of content, applications, storage and community membership. Given the plethora of brands, operating systems (OS), device shapes/sizes and price points, do people choose smartphones based on whether their devices fit into a single ecosystem with other tablets, PCs and TVs? Or, do they think of smartphone purchases as standalone decisions?

The brand loyalty implications are clear: If consumers think of their world as a single ecosystem, platform providers can leverage their installed base to enjoy brand premiums for new device sales in the ecosystem. So, are ecosystems differentiators? This is what we wanted to find out when we kicked off a recent study with 1,000 smartphone owners.

Taming the Jungle

As it turns out, consumers do not place high importance on staying within the same brand family or selecting devices based on how easy it is to share content across devices. These two factors fell near the bottom of potential criteria for consumers selecting a smartphone or switching from an Apple phone to an Android phone.

Instead, smartphone purchasers are more interested in a specific operating system and access to more apps, which was particularly important to those moving to iOS. Those moving away from the iPhone were focused on form factor issues such as a larger screen size and the ability to customize their phone more fully.

With that said, these factors do not appear to extend to a fully conscious decision to buy into a single ecosystem, but by choosing a specific operating system they are entering into an ecosystem by default.

Drivers

In particular, iPhone users have already bought into the overall brand promise of Apple to create “plug-and-play” devices that share content seamlessly. They are more likely to agree there are benefits of having devices in a single brand family.

Benefits of Brand Family

However, six in ten consumers indicated they have different brands and OS across their devices such as computers, laptops, tablets, e-readers and mobile phones. Shifting content between device types and shopping in multiple “app” stores has become routine for these consumers. The vast majority (90%) are highly satisfied with their ability to share content across devices. In addition, the smartphone owners in this study are generally satisfied with most aspects of being able to access and manage their email, apps and other content across different devices.

Overall Satisfaction

Living in a Default Environment

While smartphone owners may not consciously buy into an “ecosystem,” they are primarily living within the Apple or Android environment by default. Current iPhone users purchase content in the Apple store primarily, while Samsung and other non iOS smartphone owners use Google Play or Amazon Marketplace primarily.

Usage

Consumers who have used both the Apple and Google Play app stores tend to believe they deliver a comparable experience: The Apple store gets higher marks for having a greater overall quantity of apps and more variety, while Google Play is rated as having better pricing. Both marketplaces are rated as being about the same on the ease of discovering new apps, user reviews and the overall purchase experience.

Best Marketplace Option

More Like Suburbia?

The process of transferring content from one OS to the other is often mentioned as a pain point. However, that is seen as a one-time experience that can be worked through.Taking all of this into account, it appears the “Digital Jungle” is actually rather tame and easily navigated.

Differentiation by ecosystem is not currently a primary driver in the selection of mobile devices for the modern, savvy consumer, but there are key differentiators that each OS can enjoy and exploit. The evolving impact of these factors in a fast-moving space will continue to be fascinating to watch (and research).

About the Digital Ecosystems Study

Market Strategies International interviewed a national sample of 1,060 consumers ages 18 and older between October 17 and 25, 2012. Respondents were recruited from an opt-in online panel of US adults and were interviewed online. Respondents were screened to meet certain criteria: currently had a smartphone; not their first smartphone and currently own at least one other device for content/app usage such as a tablet, laptop or gaming console. Due to its opt-in nature, this online panel (like most others) does not yield a random probability sample of the target population. As such, it is not possible to compute a margin of error or to statistically quantify the accuracy of projections. Market Strategies will supply the exact wording of all survey questions upon request.

Contact Keri Christensen for more information.

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