Smartphone Migration

Breaking up is hard to do.

smartphone coffee
CC0 Public Domain license from pxhere.

A new report finds that the Google Pixel is expanding its market share—but at the expense of other Android phones rather than Apple’s iPhone.

Judging from Google’s advertising methods, design choices, and feature efforts when it comes to the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, it’s pretty clear the company is trying to entice iPhone users over to Android. In our review for the Google Pixel 3, we even referred to it as “the Android iPhone.”

However, according to Counterpoint Research, the number of consumers who are leaving Apple for Google pales in comparison to the number of users leaving Samsung for Google.

In a recent blog post, Counterpoint Research suggests that around 18 percent of current owners of the Google Pixel 3 upgraded to it from an iPhone, while a whopping 51 percent upgraded from a Samsungsmartphone. Remarkably, a total of 31 percent of Google Pixel 3 owners came specifically from the Samsung Galaxy S7, which at this point is over three years old.

Counterpoint also says that 14 percent of Pixel 3 owners upgraded from a Motorola device while 17 percent upgraded from something that wasn’t a Motorola, Samsung, or Apple smartphone.

Android Authority, “Google Pixel 3 is apparently snatching users from Samsung, not so much Apple “

This isn’t surprising, really.

I’ve seen the ads for the Pixel 3, mostly waiting for movies to start in a theater, and it looks like an impressive device. But probably not impressive enough to go through the hassle of switching over to a new ecosystem.

I learned how to use a couple generations of BlackBerrys and several iPhones, so I’m sure I could figure out a Pixel in fairly short order. Still, I have a ton of apps that I’ve already paid for from the iTunes store and all my data is backed up on iCloud. Beyond that, my girls’ iPads have tons of apps linked to my account and my fiance and her kids are also on the Apple ecosystem.

Again, none of that is insurmountable but it creates an inertia that keeps people from switching. It’s one reason Apple gets away with making changes that annoy customers—doing away with headphone jacks, switching away from universal charger connections to proprietary ones, and the like.

Obviously, inertia can be overcome. But Google would need to either offer compelling features that Apple doesn’t or dramatically undercut the iPhone in price to make switching worthwhile. Thus far, they’ve done neither.

FILED UNDER: Science & Technology
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. The Pixel is the only phone that has tempted me to switch.

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  2. Kathy says:

    I could easily switch. I don’t have much data residing in the cloud, not important data, and I think I’ve paid for exactly two apps.

    But I’d demand a hefty fee for using an iPhone, and I don’t think anyone would be willing to pay 🙂

    So it’s still Android all the way.

    Oh, I don’t know about google, but there are dirt cheap android phones all over. they work about as well as you’d expect, though.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Same.

    @Kathy: Part of the problem, as I’ve noted before, is that phones have become what PCs did 10-15 years ago: virtually commodities. With both PCs and phones, it was almost imperative to upgrade with some regularity to keep up with modern technology. Every upgrade was a wonder. The last couple of iPhone upgrades were meh and I’m still happily using my iPhone 7-Plus. I doubt I’ll replace it until it breaks, since there’s just no new technology out there that makes upgrading worth the cost.

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  4. gVOR08 says:

    Transitioning would be easy, I found going from Android to Apple nearly transparent, my files are in Dropbox, and the few apps I paid .99 or 9.99 for (is there an echo of Ben Carson in here) aren’t a concern. The only expensive app I use is Office 365, which is Microsoft and I assume works with Android as easily as Apple. But it’s a long time since anybody came up with a new killer app or a groundbreaking phone feature. I give up, what about a Pixel 3 would tempt me to change? All I see is an incrementally better camera.

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  5. Kit says:

    Mobile phones are still far from being commodities, and the technology continues to advance briskly. What has happened, like with PCs before it, is that mobile hardware has handily outpaced the software. The device you are probably holding in your hand this very minute is crazy powerful, and companies are struggling to harness that power in ways that consumers care about.

    Ecosystem lock-in keeps people from switching, and I see that only growing stronger. Health tracking might make for the ultimate lock-in.

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  6. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    With PCs, backwards compatibility was, and remains, a feature. With phones and tablets, not so much. The next upgrade to the iPhone might be it actually runs any apps, as compared to the two versions ago iPhone which no longer does so.

    I bought a Nexus 7 2012 tablet in 2013. It worked very well through two upgrades, then bricked itself with Lollipop, then I downgraded it and it regained functionality, and now it runs updated versions of apps, but very, very, very slowly. Essentially, it’s dead.

    An old laptop with Windows Vista I keep around, still runs relatively well. I gave it a partition for Windows 10, and runs that reasonably well, too.

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  7. gVOR08 says:

    This is more concerning than migrating my phone data.
    https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-47810367
    Microsoft is shutting down their ebook operation. They’re apparently going to shut down their servers and your Microsoft books will evaporate. Mine are all Nook and Kindle, but who knows how long B&N will hold on. I dug around online and apparently it’s possible with free apps to save my books to my own media as PDFs. Haven’t tried it yet.

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  8. Kathy says:

    @gVOR08:

    Kindle has a PC app (program!) you can download your ebooks to. As mentioned before, backwards compatibility is still a thing in PCs. There’s plenty of free space in most hard drives, and files are far easier to locate and copy or save to a DVD or thumb drive or backup drive.

    I’m more concerned as to how real is ownership of an ebook. As far as I know, you can’t sell a used ebook you no longer want, nor any mechanism to do so (they can be loaned out, though). Likewise audiobooks. If you own the right to have the book in your device, or PC, or on disk even, for an indefinite time, but can’t transfer to someone else, or lose if the dealer goes out of business, or closes its ebook division, or simply decides ten years of having “Foundation” was enough, well, then what?

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  9. Teve says:

    I’ve got a Nokia 6.1 that I paid $180 for. If I spent 400% more I could have slightly better pictures, browse the internet slightly quicker, and maybe have a user interface that was slightly friendlier. there’s literally nothing I need to do that would require a more expensive phone. It has become a commodity for me.

    I don’t need a Bugatti to drive 45 miles per hour to the grocery store, my paid-off Fiesta works just fine. 🙂

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  10. Gustopher says:

    Most of the Android phones come with a bastardized version of Android, which has been skinned by the manufacturer to make it “distinctive”, which generally means that updates are infrequent. Even critical security updates. The skinning also tends to make things not work as well.

    If I were to switch back to Android, it would be for a Pixel, or whatever the blessed Google phone of the day was.

    @Kathy:

    I bought a Nexus 7 2012 tablet in 2013. It worked very well through two upgrades, then bricked itself with Lollipop, then I downgraded it and it regained functionality, and now it runs updated versions of apps, but very, very, very slowly. Essentially, it’s dead.

    My Nexus 7 was my favorite tablet of all time. It was the right size, and quick, and beautiful. As he reached end-of-life I looked for another Android tablet, but didn’t find anything good.

    The iPad mini is a mediocre replacement. It’s better in every measurable way, but I just don’t love it.

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  11. Teve says:

    @gVOR08:

    Transitioning would be easy, I found going from Android to Apple nearly transparent, my files are in Dropbox

    20 years ago when I had to build my own PCS I had to focus on processor speed, memory, specs like that. I haven’t had to do any of that stuff in years. I bought my last laptop based on how it looks, I bought this phone based on USB c and a headphone jack and some other minor aesthetic things. It’s got an expansion slot I could put hundreds of gigabytes, and I never will because I just don’t care. I’ve got a few important files on Google drive and I’ll never even use that up.

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  12. Kit says:

    @Teve:

    I don’t need a Bugatti to drive 45 miles per hour to the grocery store, my paid-off Fiesta works just fine.

    Yes, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Imagine that your car decreases in speed by 50% every year. Just how fast does it need to go when new so that you can hold on to it as many years as you wish? And keep in mind that the locks and/or doors fall off of it every few months unless the manufacturer gives you the special code.

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  13. Teve says:

    @Kit: In a couple of years I can just buy probably a Nokia 8 or 9 for the same 180 bucks I paid for this one. I bought expensive top-of-the-line phones in the past, and I just can’t see ever doing that again.

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  14. Joe says:

    Still, I have a ton of apps that I’ve already paid for from the iTunes store and all my data is backed up on iCloud. Beyond that, my girls’ iPads have tons of apps linked to my account and my fiance and her kids are also on the Apple ecosystem.

    The last couple of iPhone upgrades were meh and I’m still happily using my iPhone 7-Plus. I doubt I’ll replace it until it breaks, since there’s just no new technology out there that makes upgrading worth the cost.

    Sometimes, James Joyner, I feel like I am living your parallel life.

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  15. Teve says:

    And since it’s an Android One phone I should be good on updates for at least the next two or three years.

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  16. Kit says:

    @Teve: I think that it can be a complicated decision, at least in the Apple world. Until a few months ago, I was using an iPhone 6 from 2014. It was on the latest OS and was perfectly usable. That’s a real testament to Apple. Then again, there was an entire year when the phone was crap because of the OS. Had the phone not been the victim of friendly fire in an unfortunate gym accident, I would have squeezed out a full five years of full-support OS usage. Then again, the difference compared with the current flagship is night and day. Three years of evolution in the mobile space is equivalent to ten in the automotive world.

    I’m honestly torn between 1) holding on to my phone for years and squeezing out all the life from it, and 2) just upgrading every year or two. But I would upgrade constantly, if needed, to avoid security holes.

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  17. James Joyner says:

    @Joe:

    Sometimes, James Joyner, I feel like I am living your parallel life.

    Ya poor bastard!

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  18. Tevr says:

    @Kit:

    But I would upgrade constantly, if needed, to avoid security holes.

    it’s my understanding that Android one phones are supposed to get security updates for minimum of three years. I might need a new phone by then, this one is so cheap that I didn’t even bother to put a case on it. 🙂

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  19. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:

    My Nexus 7 was my favorite tablet of all time.

    Mine, too, but also the only one, so…

    It was a good size to hold while in bed, to read, to browse, to play games, even to watch TV for a short period (for longer, I have a Chromecast). Once it died, I replaced it with my company-issued halfway phone. It’s just big enough to make do.

    I call it that because it runs well, but constantly runs out of memory (it has 8GB). It would be perfect if I could root it and transfer main memory to the 32GB SD card. Alas, I’ve been unable to do so.

    Now, confession time. My mom buys a new phone every two years with her cell plan, and gives me her old phone. Right now that means a Galaxy Note 5. I put the company-issued SIM chip in it, and that gives me a very decent phone for use as a work phone, with the company-issued phone relegated to lighter duty.

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  20. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy:

    I call it that because it runs well, but constantly runs out of memory (it has 8GB). It would be perfect if I could root it and transfer main memory to the 32GB SD card. Alas, I’ve been unable to do so.

    Ive decided that I don’t want to be a system administrator for my phone or tablet, which has pushed me into Apple-land.

    It’s 80% of what I want it to be, rather than 85%, but a lot less nuisance. Apple rears its ugly head too often. But, it’s fine. I don’t quite recommend it.

    Back when I was working at Google, I had a grandboss who offered everyone a crisp $20 out of his wallet to switch to an iPhone, because he “wanted us to be happy”.

    The iPhone reminds me of the Google cafeteria — they would carefully arrange the meal parts with the healthy stuff first so you would fill up your plate, and then have to squeeze everything to fit some meat or cheesecake or whatever on the plate. You were better off going with the flow, but you felt manipulated.

    I made a lot of people unhappy there by pointing this out. They were naive enough not to feel manipulated, and just said “huh, I guess the steamed vegetables looked good today”.

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  21. MarkedMan says:

    I have to admit my only personal experience from Android is now 7+ years old and involves two inexpensive phones bought for my then young kids in China, primarily for emergency contacts and the ability to have maps and in a pinch, also translation functions. What horrible pieces of crap, in so many ways not worth going into. But I also am responsible for developing apps and there are ways that the Apple environment is vastly superior to the Android one, starting with the fact that supporting two major revisions of iOS gives us 95% coverage of all Apple devices, while you would need to support a dozen to get to that number on Android. Actually, hundreds, because as someone pointed out above every manufacturer tweeks Android to match it’s phones, sometimes different tweeks for every phone in their lineup. Nowadays, though, an even bigger concern is security. I’ve been becoming increasing focused on privacy and security of medical devices and Android is a f*cking nightmare. No one updates their phones but the uber geeks, so the fact that something was patched 4 years ago means nothing in the Android environment. In fact, it doesn’t even mean that a brand new phone will have that patch. A white hat hacking company did a surgery last year and found that even when companies explicitly listed a patch in their release notes, a significant amount of time it wasn’t actually applied. And this included companies like Samsung, so it wasn’t limited to the bottom feeders or Chinese companies.

    I’ve been recommending if we have to have an Android release we create a browser app (which, despite the name, can be set up to run off line) to get around the compatibility issues and minimize the security issues. But even then I wouldn’t trust an Android phone that was designed and built in China. Android is open source and you literally have access to the most fundamental layers. No matter what Google does to secure the official version they source, you have no way of knowing what was done with the version on your non-Google phone.

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  22. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:

    “huh, I guess the steamed vegetables looked good today”.

    When have steamed vegetables ever looked good?

    Anyway, I disliked the iPhone because it kept insisting I turn on cell data to download podcasts and audiobooks, when my company data plan is very limited. Getting that notification several times a day, without a means of shutting it up, was really annoying. Android phones tend to be less obtrusive that way.

    My current company phone is ok, but the memory issue is a big PITA. I can’t update apps, as there’s no memory available to do so. I’ve tried deleting/disabling bloatware, putting as much as possible in the memory card, and the thing keeps somehow using up all the memory. Every few months I have to reset it just so it will install the latest versions of apps. Fortunately, I have the Note 5 for serious stuff like Waze.

    Apple also tends to screw the users over with things like WiFi assist, new models without a headphone jack, etc. I see it, in part, more as a cult than a brand. a friend swears this isn’t so, and he does so in the name of The Apple, The Woz, and The Holy Jobs.

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  23. MarkedMan says:

    @Gustopher: I’ve been designing hardware and software revolving around commercial or open source hardware and software since before the first PC came out and I have a different perspective on Apple’s design philosophy. Which is that, they have one. I don’t always agree with it. For example, skeuomorphics, Jobs’ pet design fetish, which is as stupid and simplistic of an idea as Microsoft Bob, for the same reasons. Annoying as ornamentation, it is worse than that because it actually inhibits people from implementing new and better ways to interact with new and better technologies.

    I have an appreciation for systems which give programmers access to the innards of the technology but have little respect for design teams that let programmers (and I’m a programmer so I know of what I speak) design the user interface. It is the job of the design team to understand what your user is trying to accomplish and make that as obvious, smooth and effortless as possible. This involves many revisions and user tests and some really hard decisions on jettisoning “cool” features because they get in the way. Forgoing this work and “letting” (more often, requiring) the user customize every facet of their user interface means that you are prioritizing your program over the work the user wants to do with your program. Back in the early, early days of the PC vs Mac debate, Byte Magazine used to publish the previous months best selling program for each platform. It was not unusual for all ten slots on the PC side to be full of memory managers, file management utilities and other system administrator programs, while it was unusual for the Mac to even have one on their list. Instead it was filled with programs that helped you do the work you were paid to do.

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  24. Kit says:

    @MarkedMan: Wait a moment, let me get this straight: you appreciate thoughtful design that allows people to be productive, and you value security. Yeap, part of the cult! Don’t you know that Android phones can be really cheap?

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  25. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    It is the job of the design team to understand what your user is trying to accomplish and make that as obvious, smooth and effortless as possible.

    Any idea what kind of team was responsible for the Windows 8 fiasco? I’m mostly over it, we won the war for the desktop, after all, but I still wonder at the Edselness of the thing.

    Forgoing this work and “letting” (more often, requiring) the user customize every facet of their user interface means that you are prioritizing your program over the work the user wants to do with your program.

    Maybe so, but I really appreciate being able to customize my PCs and phones. you know the typical Win 7 and above PC will have four shrunken icons pinned to the right of the Start/Windows button? None of mine does. I also don’t have Cortana and the search box cluttering up the task bar in Win 10.

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  26. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy:

    Anyway, I disliked the iPhone because it kept insisting I turn on cell data to download podcasts and audiobooks, when my company data plan is very limited. Getting that notification several times a day, without a means of shutting it up, was really annoying. Android phones tend to be less obtrusive that way.

    If that is what I think it was, it was a bug, which Apple eventually hunted down and killed. It was rare enough to slip past qa, but happened all the time for people affected.

    Annoying as can be. I had it happening on an iPad with no data plan.

    But it was not a plan to nag the user endlessly.

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  27. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:

    But it was not a plan to nag the user endlessly.

    Well, they did a terrible job accomplishing the opposite.

    It happened every time I opened the podcast app or audible. The little box with “Cell data is turned off for this app, yadda yadda yadda,” and the apps couldn’t be used until you dismissed te warning.

    The impression I got was “use the phone the way The Apple says you should, or we will annoy you and delay you for all eternity.”

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  28. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    @Kit: Well, I certainly know that Android phones are cheap; that’s why I bought one to replace my worn out flip phone that houses my ‘home’ phone number. Of course, I don’t actually USE the phone for anything other than a phone, but that’s all I’ve ever done with any of my phones. I only started sending texts when I moved to Korea–in 2008–and only then because the people I was working with did.

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  29. Tyrell says:

    @Teve: My first cell was a Nokia 521 Windows phone that cost about $60 unlocked a six years ago. I would like to get one like that again, or a Samsung Rugby. I want something that is tough, keeps a long charge, and easily fits into a pocket. I can get a decent digital camera for good pictures.

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  30. Kathy says:

    @The abyss that is the soul of cracker:

    Of course, I don’t actually USE the phone for anything other than a phone,

    I don’t think we should call them “phones” any more. They’re “Small, highly portable computers with a telephone app and a decent camera.”

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  31. @Kathy: I take the approach that rather than saying that “phone” is the wrong wrong, I instead would argue that the word “phone” just now has a new meaning.

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