LONDON: Content and applications are playing an increasingly important role in generating brand loyalty among UK mobile phone users, according to new figures from TNS.

The research firm conducted a survey of 27,000 people in the country, and found that specific phone manufacturers were still regarded as the key drivers of loyalty in this sector.

Overall, companies like Apple, the firm behind the iPhone, RIM, which produces the BlackBerry, Samsung and Nokia were afforded such a status by 51% of respondents.

Some 27% of participants, however, mentioned particular content sources and applications as being the most valuable aspect of their mobile experience, with Google, Facebook and Twitter all scoring highly.

More broadly, TNS found that 19% of mobile users regularly purchased or downloaded free applications, a trend that means most major of the players are now seeking to strengthen their offerings in this area.

Despite this, only 33% of the panel saw applications as shaping their final purchase decision when buying a new handset, compared with 63% who said the "look and feel" of the device was the crucial factor.

A further 43% referenced the brand, while 41% placed an emphasis on the input method, and 34% on the operating system.

Stephen Yap, group director at TNS Technology, said "while established handset makers are standing their ground, network operators are clearly under pressure from the rise of the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter."

"These content providers are increasingly capturing consumers' loyalties and are leading the way in bringing users the benefits of the latest mobile technologies."

Data sourced from; additional content by Warc staff