The survey of phone users by Nielsen covered three main points. The first is described by the researchers as covering people’s desires, but that’s slightly misleading. The question is indeed what phone people want, but it was posed only to people who say they plan on buying a new phone in the next year. That’s sure to have caused confusion between what phones people want to buy and what phones they intend to buy: for example, people might love a particular phone but either consider it too expensive or not be able to get good service in their area.
Whatever the reasoning, Android took top spot with 31 percent, just pipping the 30 percent for the iPhone. That’s a reversal of a 33-26 iPhone lead last summer. There are also slight drops for the figures for BlackBerry (11 percent) and Windows (six percent), with 20 percent of people saying they aren’t sure.
The next question, what phone people actually bought in the past six months, has a more dramatic Android lead: it polled 50 percent compared to Apple’s 25 percent. At first glance that might seem incompatible with the figures about desired phone, but there are a couple of possible explanations beyond it simply being a different sample group.
Firstly, it’s a comparison of desired or planned sales against actual sales, and it certainly makes sense that a fair proportion of people who’d like to buy an iPhone wind up getting an Android model instead. Secondly, there are two timescales in play: actual sales from September 2010 through March 2011, several months after the release of the iPhone 4 and the initial rush of purchases by the most avid users; and March 2011 through March 2012, a period during which most users will be anticipating a new iPhone model’s release.
Finally Nielsen asked what systems people are running, regardless of when they bought their smartphone. That showed a clear lead for Android on 37 percent, compared with 27 percent for Apple and 22 percent for BlackBerry. That’s roughly in line with other recent estimates, such as those based on viewers of mobile adverts. One such measure in March had Android on 33 percent, so the new 37 percent figure is likely a combination of genuine growth and sampling error.