LONDON: The operating system (OS) is a key factor for consumers choosing a mobile phone, according to research which suggests that networks, handset makers and operating systems providers need to work more closely together to offer consumers a customised ecosystem.

Market researcher TNS asked 4,000 smartphone users in the UK about how they chose what to buy, about the importance of previous experience, and about brand values as it sought to understand the drivers of customer loyalty in this market.

Outlining the results in Admap, Tim Pritchard and Simon Wood said the mobile phone market was a prime example of an increasingly complex brand ecosystem where brands needed to work together to survive.

Their research showed that, irrespective of which OS a customer currently has, if they have actively chosen and consider their choice of OS important, they are up to 2.4 times more likely to keep the same brand of handset next time.

This was underscored by that finding that the four brands with highest potential retention were those which best represented the four major operating systems: Apple, Samsung with Android, Blackberry, and Nokia with Microsoft Windows.

Network choice and handset loyalty were also intertwined, with users loyal to a network twice as likely to be loyal to their handset and vice versa.

Apps were another factor, with customers who used more apps being more likely to be loyal to that handset.

The research found widespread satisfaction with networks and handsets but equally there was a widespread willingness to countenance change, with networks in particular danger of developing a commodity status.

But almost half of those surveyed thought the choice of OS was crucial, suggesting that retailers might rethink their current focus on networks and the latest handsets.

Data is the new driver of the category, said Pritchard and Wood, and within that the applications available, including those previously paid for on a particular platform.

"Owning" the customer, they concluded, was not an achievable, or even necessarily desirable, objective for any brand. Instead the current ménage à trois needed to evolve and look towards a team effort as consumers looked for a package personalised to their needs.

"Together, those brands that deliver will be more successful than they could ever be on their own."

Data sourced from Admap