It’s something we’ve long suspected but now we finally have the proof we need: Your wireless carrier wants to push you to buy a Samsung smartphone over an iPhone. Kantar Worldpanel has just released a new study (PDF) confirming reports that we’ve long heard about carriers trying to steer their customers away from the iPhone and toward rival devices — most prominently, Samsung’s.
In a survey of smartphone buyers in the United States, Kantar found that “63% of consumers who bought a device in [Q1 2014] were recommended a Samsung device, more than double the rate of recommendation for Apple, and almost 10 times more than Nokia.” Kantar found that this had an enormous impact on Samsung sales as well because “59% of buyers who were recommended a Samsung phone went ahead and bought one while the rest opted for other vendors in the Android ecosystem.” Meanwhile, “only 6% of consumers who were recommended Samsung walked out of the store with an iPhone.”
Why, exactly, are carriers doing this? It’s not exactly a conspiracy so much as it’s rational self-interest. The iPhone carries a very high subsidy cost for carriers, who are concerned about Apple racking up too much market power. After all, if the iPhone becomes more popular than it already is, then it gives Apple leverage to push for even stronger carrier subsidies.
This is exacerbated by the fact that iPhone customers are the most fanatically loyal smartphone users around — once they’ve been converted they don’t even think of trying other devices.
“Consumers purchasing Apple’s iPhone models are the ones doing the least amount of pre-purchase research,” Kantar writes, because Apple fans just know that they’re going to get an iPhone and don’t need anyone’s recommendations.
What’s puzzling here, however, is why carriers are leaning so heavily on Samsung. After all, Samsung phones carry very hefty subsidies as well — you would think that Verizon, AT&T and friends would be keen on pushing high-quality phones from Nokia, HTC and LG as well to further level out the playing field.