ChangeWave survey shows Android now neck and neck with iOS in smartphone buyer preference

“Our latest survey shows the Android OS is once again making major advances in the smartphone market,” Paul Carton, Vice President of Research, reports for ChangeWave. “Among consumers planning to buy a smartphone in the next 90 days, 37% say they prefer to have the Android OS on their new phone — a 7-pt jump since our previous survey and a new all-time high for the Google operating system.”

Note: Estimated data for Sep 2008

Carton reports, “As the above chart points out, we’ve seen huge leaps forward for the Android OS in four of the last five ChangeWave surveys. All told, it’s a six-fold increase in consumer preference for the Google OS in a year’s time.

“While the Apple iOS (38%; -12 pts) remains the number one OS preference for future buyers, it dropped as expected in the aftermath of the huge spike we saw during June’s iPhone 4 release,” Carton reports. “The following chart shows mobile OS preferences for consumers who plan on buying a smartphone in the next 90 days — in comparison to the OS preferences from our June survey.”

Carton reports, “Research in Motion’s results are less encouraging in the above chart. Preference for the RIM OS (6%) is up just 1-pt since June, a time when RIM had fallen to its lowest level since we began asking this question. The current 1-pt uptick is likely attributable to the recent launch of the new Torch smartphone.”

MacDailyNews Take: Wonder that it is.

Carton reports, “We also took a look at OS satisfaction rates based upon the type of operating system consumers report using on their smart phones.”

Carton reports, “As previously, the Apple iOS leads the industry with 74% of customers who use the iPhone OS saying they’re Very Satisfied. Just behind them is the Android OS, with two-in-three users (65%) saying they’re Very Satisfied. The Very Satisfied ratings of both these leaders dwarf those of other major operating systems, including the Palm OS/Web OS (32%), RIM OS (31%) and Windows Mobile (24%).”

The complete ChangeWave report is available here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple’s approaching a crossroads that we’ve seen before where people who don’t know any better think that what they’ve settled for is “just as good” as Apple’s superior product. After all, those born into utter desolation would think a tarpaper shack is a palace.

Now, with smartphones (as opposed to personal computers back when Apple last stood at this crossroads) there is far less upfront cost and hardly no cost benefit to settling for the inferior, potentially patent infringing knockoff. Also, apps that cost on average a buck or two are much less of a lock-in than they were with personal computers, where software was a real investment (this is before Macs ran Windows software natively or via fast virtualization). On top of those facts, people turn over smartphones at a much more rapid pace than they do personal computers. All of these things work in Apple’s favor for when they finally do pull the trigger and move to multiple carrier models in more countries which eliminates the main – so “main,” it’s more like “sole” – reason why people settle for fake iPhones.

If you think you have to be on Verizon or your company pays for it or whatever, why wouldn’t you settle for an Android phone? It’s the best you can do. If you’ve never used an iPhone, you think you’re “satisfied.” The ChangeWave results are totally expected and not in the least surprising.

Now, what happens when Apple goes to multiple carrier model in the U.S.? Well, when the time comes for their next smartphone decision, prospective switchers won’t have to pay more for Apple’s product, they will have relatively little invested in the Android platform, and they will be ready to get the real thing rather quickly.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]