Is Apple's halo beginning to slip?

Apple: will not lose its number one spot overnight
Apple: will not lose its number one spot overnight

Next year could provide some cheer for brands hoping to challenge Apple's dominance, research from Harris Interactive has found.

2012 has been another great year for Apple according to fresh research from Harris Interactive, which polled 2,000+ GB consumers to determine its hero brands and devices of the last 12 months. At first glance, Apple looks to be completely dominant: 

  • Top tablet brand of 2012? Check... iPad chosen by 63%, a massive 6:1 ratio lead over second placed Samsung. Even those who own other brands of tablet acknowledge iPad as number one in the category.
  • Top smartphone of 2012? Check... iPhone 5 selected by 39%, a nine point lead over Samsung’s extremely successful Galaxy S3.
  • Top brand of the year? Of course... Apple number one, ahead of not only tablet and smartphone competitors like Samsung but other ubiquitous and much loved brands like Amazon, Google and eBay.   

So, everything points to business as usual in the house of Apple. Another poll, another set of stunning figures.

But if we look a little closer - and also take into account the less effusive reviews of imminent Apple franchise releases - eg, the iPad Mini - maybe things are not quite as rosy as they first appear.

The first worrying indicator for Apple is that the margin of its lead over Samsung in tablets is reduced from a 6:1 ratio among all consumers to 3:1 among the influential ‘first adopter’ audience; those who like to own new technology devices as soon as they come onto the market. 

And the gap between the two brands is even smaller among 16-24 year olds. So are trendy young things beginning to tire of Apple and looking for devices and brands that their parents (and grandparents) have not yet discovered?

And then if we consider which brands and devices are most anticipated in 2013, the evidence begins to build:

  • Yes, the next version of iPad is still the most anticipated tablet but by a ratio of only 2:1 over the next Samsung tablet.  And other brands - Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 - are beginning to figure more prominently than they did in 2012.
  • Yes the next iteration of iPhone is also the most anticipated smartphone release but its lead over Samsung is down to just 5%. In fact, Samsung holds a 1% lead over iPhone among the mass market audience (those who tend to wait a while before owning technology devices and who comprise the largest consumer segment). 
  • And, perhaps most worrying for a brand that prides itself on the utter devotion of its customers, 25% of current iPhone users are anticipating the release of other smartphones more.

It is no surprise to see Samsung emerge as a threat to Apple dominance - huge 2012 shipments bear witness to this and the vast amounts of money Samsung has committed to R&D is likely to see the battle of the giants hot up further in the next few years, in the factory as well as in court. 

But what about the wider competitive set? Are new upstarts beginning to emerge to shake things up? What about the old stalwarts - are they showing any signs of life in the poll?

We have already seen that Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7 tablets are anticipated by a significant minority of GB consumers, but interestingly it is the once dominant BlackBerry and late to market Nokia that figure more strongly among the most anticipated 2013 smartphones (fieldwork was completed a few weeks after Nokia announced its new Lumia 920 to the world). 

Despite their troubles in recent years, consumers are seemingly willing to give them another shot at getting things right in the smartphone arena. 

So, what does all this data mean? 

Let’s be clear, we are not suggesting that Apple will lose its number one crown overnight. The brand is still extremely healthy, attracting the votes of customers and non-customers alike across all demographics and segments.

But the Harris Heroes 2012 poll should certainly provide some cheer to brands that have trailed in Apple’s wake over recent years. The future looks a little less clear cut than the past; consumers are showing signs that they welcome greater competition from a wider array of brands.

The plethora of releases - and rumours of releases - from the likes of Google, HP, Acer, Motorola, Sony and LG to name just a few as well as increased competition between Android and Window Phone 8 (and BB10 eventually) operating systems will either feed this desire or serve to confuse. 

The run up to Christmas 2012 may well prove to be a pivotal period in the evolution of the smart device brand landscape.

Lee Langford, director, Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive surveyed 2,062 nationally representative GB adults aged 16-64 via the Harris PollTM Online Omnibus between 16th and 22nd October 2012.

We asked them to share their thoughts on the "best products of 2012" across 15 categories within the telecoms, media, technology and entertainment sectors.

For further details and full results of the Harris Heroes 2012 study please visit the Harris Interactive website.

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