Comment on “How sticky is Android?”

If you’re not reading Horace Dediu’s asymco, you’re missing out on the best mobile systems analysis and numbers in the business. I took the time to comment on his recent How sticky is Android article and I’m reprinting here for the record.

I appreciate the “sunk cost” notion [of smartphone stickiness], but I think for most users in most cases, that’s a non-issue beyond any given 2-year period. When the phone costs $100 to $300 subsidized but your monthly cost is already $75+, the hardware cost is not a barrier to switching. In fact, anyone that doesn’t upgrade their phone — and posisbly switch platforms — at the turn of their contract is leaving money on the table, based on the way carrier contracts work today. I routinely talk with friends whose contracts are coming up and they usually consider their options. Some are loyal to a platform, but most aren’t.

What seems to create loyalty or stickiness are only a few factors, and rarely are all at play for any single user:

  1. some number of platform-specific apps that the user considers critical to smartphone value
  2. a large number of platform-specific apps or media on which the user spent a lot of money and wants to retain that value
  3. direct ownership experience with both iOS and Android, after which the user has made a choice and plans to stick with it (so far, iOS is winning in this category amongst my peers)
  4. irrational love of or hatred of either iOS or Android based on emotional criteria (generally Android wins in this category because that torch burns particularly bright, similar to the way some people support Linux)

By the way, on #3, there hasn’t been enough time for most people to have owned both platforms yet. The first true smartphone was the iPhone in mid-2007. Android with comparable features didn’t come until much later. We’re only at the opening of 2011 — only 3.5 years into the iPhone and 2.5 or less into Android. Even if you bought an iPhone in July 2007 and bought an Android in July 2009, only this year would you be eligible to switch back. That’s not enough competitive time to draw conclusions yet on stickiness.