Under-30 South Korea Survey: 85% Bought Android as First Phone; Now 53% on iOS

  • About 85% of South Korean smartphone users aged less than 30 had an Android phone as their first smartphone, but 53% of them now use iPhones.
  • The biggest reason for these Android phone users to switch to iPhones was expectations related to performance, particularly the camera.
  • On the other hand, 92% of users in the same age group who used an iPhone as their first smartphone are currently using an iPhone.

About 85% of South Korean smartphone users aged less than 30 used Android phones such as Samsung and LG as their first smartphones, according to a consumer survey conducted by Counterpoint Research among 1,000 users in the first half of 2023. However, about 53% of them said that they were currently using an iPhone, suggesting that many Android phone users had switched to iPhones during replacement.

The reason why Android phones account for a very high proportion of first-time smartphone purchases in South Korea is that most users in that age group, particularly adolescence, give priority to the preference of those with real purchasing power, such as parents, when buying their first smartphone. During the survey, the largest number of respondents opted for “Recommendation from family or friends” when asked why they used an Android as their first smartphone.

Smartphone OS Switching Pattern in South Korea

first smartphone brand in life
Source: Counterpoint Smartphone User Experience by OS in Korea Report, H1 2023

As for the reason for switching from an Android phone to an iPhone, respondents cited “Performance” (32%) and “Brand image” (31%) as the first and second priorities. In particular, in terms of performance, satisfaction and expectation with the camera had the greatest impact on the purchase decision. Apple operates a number of R&D centers specializing in imaging technology and is evaluated to have maximized the camera performance of its devices by achieving good harmony between hardware and software. Besides, Apple recently launched a campaign called ‘Shot on iPhone’ in the South Korean market. The campaign emphasizes the iPhone’s camera performance through collaboration with a music video by Korean girl group NewJeans and a short film by director Park Chan-wook.

apple iphone
Source: Apple

According to the survey, in the <30 age group user base, Apple seems to have succeeded in solidifying the loyalty of existing iPhone users as well as switchers from Android phones. 92% of users who owned an iPhone as their first-ever smartphone said they were still using the brand. Furthermore, about 76% of them said they were not willing to use Android phones in the future. The respondents cited dissatisfaction with Android phones’ “Design” (52%) and “Performance” (29%) as reasons.

When considering all age groups, more than half of the respondents who said they switched from iPhone to Android cited easy-to-use features such as Samsung Pay and UI as the differentiating factors. These answers were similar to those of current iPhone users, who said they were willing to replace their devices with Android smartphones in the future. Therefore, to attract new users and secure loyal customers, marketing strategies that focus on user convenience are expected to be effective for Android smartphone brands.

Sujeong Lim is a Research Analyst at Counterpoint Research based out of Seoul Korea. In Counterpoint, she focuses on mobile ICT industry and mobile device research, especially dedicated on the Korea mobile market. After 10+ years product marketing experience during her working period, she joined Counterpoint to pursue her interest in IoT and emerging future technology.

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