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Apple Versus Google: Welcome to the World of Buyer’s Remorse

So the statistics that recently came out are telling. According to a report from Daniel Eran Dilger in AppleInsider, iPhone purchasers are more than twice as likely to want to buy another as those who bought Android-based devices.

The article explains it all, so I’ll be brief. The iPhone and the iOS earned a 59% loyalty figure, which isn’t great, but certainly positive. At the same time, only 25% of owners of Android OS smartphones were apt to want to go through it all again, at least for the same brand.

Faring somewhat better is the Blackberry, which garners a 35% loyalty rating. Windows mobile, in case you’re wondering, stands at 21%, but it’s not at all certain if purchasers of Windows Phone 7 gear made much of a dent in that survey, since they just came to market.

On the other hand, there’s also that report that Android OS gear is outselling Microsoft-based gear by a substantial fifteen-to-one ratio. Moreover, when I heard news of a two-for-one Windows Phone 7 fire sale from AT&T so soon after these smartphones first appeared, I had to wonder whether there are severe teething pains involved. While it may not presage another Microsoft Kin debacle, there may be problems afoot.

Returning to the survey: A total of 2,653 users were contacted in China, Brazil, Britain Germany, Spain, and the United States. It may well be that some portion of any lack of complete brand loyalty may actually be due to carrier issues, rather than the product itself. This is particularly true in the U.S., where AT&T has reception problems in some areas.

Overall, however, Google ought to be concerned that high percentages of customers aren’t happy with their Android OS gear. What this means is that, once their wireless contracts are up, they’re likely to consider someone else’s handset and/or operating system. On the other hand, with the lack of a distinctive brand identity for Android, it’s quite possible dissatisfied owners will just select a different smartphone, and end up with the same OS, although it may not be readily apparent until they take it home.

When it comes to other products, the fledgling Google TV platform may already be in trouble. Accompanied by tepid reviews, there’s a report that Sony is already knocking $100 off their $399 entrant into this nascent category. You’d think that a brand new platform wouldn’t suffer from such an insult, but it sort of makes sense.

I mean, Google TV seems largely to be a melding of a keyboard-based Internet access system, similar to the failed WebTV, to which some custom apps with the requisite targeted Google ads have been added. Talk about creating a product for which there’s no demonstrated need.

In contrast, it’s not clear yet that the Apple TV is necessarily flying off the shelves. The first sales report had it that 250,000 units had been sold early in this new set top box’s lifecycle. I suppose that’s not bad, and it won’t be clear until the holiday season is over whether Apple can rev that up to a million or two. But it doesn’t yet appear that the upgraded, downsized Apple TV is destined to shed the hobby label anytime soon.

My personal experience with an Apple TV is reasonably positive, but there have been glitches. On several occasions, while streaming an HD movie direct from Apple’s iTunes servers rather than my own network, playback would halt to allow for an extended period of rebuffering. Indeed, when you first rent a title, there’s normally a delay so that a fair portion of the download can be stored inside the device’s 4GB internal memory. That way, if your Internet access slows or stops for a time, you might still be able to get through the entire presentation before the data store runs out.

Now I have an extremely fast, solid cable Internet connection. While watching a movie Sunday evening, playback repeatedly halted during the flick’s final 20 minutes. But my ISP’s connection never slowed. While the endless buffering process occurred for the third time, I downloaded a small file to test online performance, and it was fine. My iPhone, located in the same room as the Apple TV, was also able to achieve solid performance with the same Wi-Fi connection.

Perhaps Apple’s servers were overloaded as new customers, who bought an Apple TV on Black Friday, were trying them out. I don’t have the answers, but I will inquire of Apple to see if there’s any hope for a meaningful response. I also hope this isn’t repeated. That last 20 minute segment was none too pleasant to watch. In the end, it took over an hour to finish that movie.

I am not prepared to give a buyer’s remorse verdict on Apple TV yet, however. Aside from this and a previous bout of possible signal loss, it has worked quite well. I only wish Apple would offer more services, such as Hulu, although I grant that option conceivably competes with iTunes to some degree, and it may not sit well with Apple’s desires to take control of as much of the user options as possible. But there’s still YouTube, Netflix, and Flickr. From a user’s standpoint, having more programming choices would be a good thing, and would substantially improve Apple TV’s chances for success.

Remember, too, that Apple earns the lion’s share of their profits from the sale of hardware, not by offering movies, music, and apps. Giving customers more choices on the Apple TV has to be a good thing. But whether it is destined to ultimately become a mainstream product, rather than an ongoing experiment, is anyone’s guess. I just don’t know.