iOS users: Are the switching costs just too high now?

I’ve got a question for the legions of readers running on iOS. Are the switching costs now just far too high?

In an email conversation with reader Reuben Raveendran, the issue arose and I asked his permission to publish his perspective on the whole ‘platform’ issue.

[Consider…] the “switching cost” that may prevent consumers from moving between platform. I have been an iPhone user since 2008 and have “locked” myself into the platform/ecosystem by choice (I have an iMac and an iPad).

In light of this it doesn’t make sense for me to use an Android or Windows Phone device. I have already purchased a ton of apps which I may have to repurchase if I switch, I use iCloud to keep calendar/contacts in sync, iPhoto and photo stream to manage photos, iTunes to manage all my music and even pay for iTunes match.

Lastly, I use iMessage with works on all my devices. If I switch I may gain a feature or two but lose a lot of convenience in the process.

When the argument is laid out like that, perhaps we should all be buying even more Apple stock?

However it’s important to retain a bit of perspective. For a short period anyway. Because, fundamentally this issue is all about money. Reuben is (knowingly and arguably delighted to be) paying a lot more for the privilege of things “just working”. He could switch easily. For instance he could go and buy an Android device that comes with a free 50GB DropBox account and cut-n-paste everything, music, photos, data, over to that. It’d function in a similar manner. Just it’s not quite what he’s been used to. And it’s not that cool. Perceived switching costs clearly weigh highly on his viewpoint.

What will it take for Reuben and the millions of rich iPhone users (in the context of the average mobile consumer) to even consider changing?

It’d be interesting to ask Reuben to comment here. Just how many apps have you bought — that you actually need? It’d be interesting to actually do a translation: How many ‘life critical’ apps are missing for Reuben on Android, Windows Phone or RIM? Could you, theoretically, do a complete migration to another platform in an evening and by spending a maximum of £50 on apps?

Or is it simply that there isn’t yet a handset experience that is sufficiently appealing to bother?

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

10 replies on “iOS users: Are the switching costs just too high now?”

I believe the stats are in on how many iPhone users churn to Android or Windo…. Windows ph….I’m sorry, I just can’t….BwaHAHAHAaaaaohGoditHurtsStopit….

Sorry. Right. Ahem.

It’s something like 90%+ loyalty for iPhone renewal, right? This intel says over a THIRD of new iPhone users have come from other smartphones.

Game over.

What I find interesting is that is a perceived cost. I was and still and reluctant to abandon ship despite how much I want a galaxy s3. I know that my email and calendar are backed up in te cloud, I know that tripit provide an android app and I know my bank do also. These are the main things I use my handset for so why am I not using the cheaper more customisable option? That’s simple I don’t use the other option because I’m scared it won’t work. I was stung once when I tried to adopt WP7 and I won’t risk it again.

Interesting perspective (and one I totally get).

It is to this point that I think we’ll see the rise of more apps like ‘Welcome Home’ for Windows Phone, similar to the battle we saw between Posterous and other image/blog hosting websites a while back).

This might be the start of a new trend, now that that everyone’s getting their hardware and software suitably aligned, the OEMs/OSs/ecosystems of our world will become more aggressive in their approach to winning you over.

I have tried iOS, Android and WP7 (current handsets are Lumia 800 and HTC Sensation), i originally got the 3gs as i thought it only right to give Apple a try with their handsets and it was certainly an enjoyable 18 months with all these great apps/games that were available however, even after the investment I personally felt no obligation to stay with Apple, i really lost interest in the OS and have been quite happily purchasing apps on WP7 for the last 12/18 months now since i had the Trophy 7.
I must say I had invested around £100 in different apps/games on the iPhone but i did not feel very loyal to that fact. I may not be your average consumer – I use Gmail for my contact sync/email so I was not ever really locked into Apple’s cloud when it came to that but I can certainly see why people would not want to move if they had everything in one place where you are unable to extract anything from it (not used the iCloud in a while so you may be able to export contacts now..).
I am glad I made the jump and am now waiting for WP8 to hit the market and see what that now has to offer. Companies are getting better now at offering their products on several platforms (Netflix/iPlayer/etc) Windows phone may be a little behind the iOS giant and Android “eco system” – Unless Apple announce anything game changing next week then perhaps more may jump ship …

Isn’t this the point of “ecosystems” (at least
from the perspective of those producing them)?
If you have an iPhone, iPad, Mac
and loads of data in the cloud services that connect them all together, why
would you consider getting something else or replace one of them with something
which doesn’t work as well with your other devices/services?

Isn’t this the reason that Microsoft moved from just
producing software for PCs (primarily) to wanting to own the “3 screens
and the cloud”?

Microsoft and Apple are able to produce devices for
“all screens” and have cloud services but Google don’t have all the
screens covered–yet. Plus Google and Microsoft’s cloud services can be more
easily be integrated with other platforms. Apple has the most locked in ecosystem/users.

What interests me on the ecosystem front is how, and if,
Nokia (and Microsoft) can bring their Asha device owners into the
Microsoft/Windows ecosystem. Either as they upgrade from Asha devices to
Windows Phone devices in the future (Yes, that’s a big assumption that both
will still be around in a few years.) or (for the sake of them offering a
competitive 3rd ecosystem) sooner…

iPhone user for the past 6 months. Went 12 months on an N8 to 6 on a Lumia 800. The iPhone hooks up nice with the iPad I have but other than that I really feel no attachment to the iPhone. Sure I’ve bought apps but nothing exclusive to iOS. I feel I could switch to something else overnight as contact and calendar are held in google.

Apps are overrated. As long as I can browse an manage podcasts them I’m golden. I think we will soon see a return to hardware differentiation as a motivator in purchase. Something sucks about being at a bus stop with a dozen people and 9 of you own an iPhone.

it’s actually quite simple. time and effort required to switch. i am not obsessed with Apple–I have a Dell desktop with Windows and a Samsung netbook. But, I also have an iPhone and an iPad. To be honest, it’s bad enough to have to “fix” Windows or software when it crashes. Not only is it the process of finding the equivalent apps on Android or Windows, I then have to search for the equivalent apps on Android, go through the process of downloading, reregistration etc. Quite frankly, I have better things to do. So, until something comes along that is so compelling that it’s worthwhile to switch, then inertia rules the day. it;s the same reason people still ban with Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, even though there ARE better options–inertia.

I can’t think of any life critical apps that I would miss and with £50 (Hmm, manufacturers should include a voucher to entice switchers) I could probably recreate my experience more or less on the other platforms in an evening.

But, my current setup is integrated and just works so my question at this point is why should I bother to switch? What is the must have killer feature that is missing on iOS and is likely to never get implemented?

iOS 5 is pretty good (although widget’s would be nice), iOS 6 is a few weeks from release and I would be giving up something (iMessage, Photostream) if I switched. Android is king when it comes to customisation but I don’t care about this and I don’t want the added inconvenience of “managing” the battery life of the device by turning features on and off.

In May 2011 I used a Galaxy S2 as my main phone but got rid of it after 2 weeks. There were lots of nice features which were lacking on iOS 4 at the time which subsequently appeared in iOS 5. However I was being plagued by random battery drain which wouldn’t go away after a reset and I didn’t want to bother waiting for an OS update.

Let’s see what Apple has to say this Wednesday.

I don’t wish to offend, but if people are stupid enough to get totally subsumed within an ecosystem without realising that they are being set up as ongoing cash-cows, then they deserve to get stiffed for new port adaptors etc when their ecosystems decides to make a change or a charge.
Apps are waaaaaay overrated and there are more and better ‘mobile’ sites coming online all the time.

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