NEW YORK: Apple's iPhone leads its rivals when it comes to building brand loyalty among consumers, a study covering nine major markets has revealed.

GfK, the research firm, polled 4,500 adults in Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the US and UK, asking if they were likely to switch between smartphones upon next making a purchase.

Some 84% of people utilising an iPhone at present would choose the same device when the time came to update their handset.

"We think the smartphone market will eventually absorb the handset market," Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, said on a recent call with analysts. "We want the iPhone to be in as many customers' hands as possible because we think it's the greatest phone by far."

Elsewhere, the retention rate stood at 60% for participants possessing a phone powered by Google's Android operating system, as employed by manufacturers like HTC, Motorola and Samsung.

"I think that your experience on the phone could actually get to be better than your experience on a computer. I mean, the phone knows where you are, and can help you even when you're mobile, and so on," Larry Page, Google's CEO, said last month.

Scores fell to 48% among owners of a BlackBerry, made by Research in Motion, the study found.

Overall, 63% of the panel intended to stay with their current smartphone supplier rather than switch, a trend that suggests the market is starting to mature, Ryan Garner, an analyst at GfK, argued.

However, the rise of Google Android and roll out of new Windows Phones by Microsoft, and companies such as Nokia, may still have a meaningful impact. Garner said: "Apple is clearly ahead of the game, but developments next year will challenge that."

More broadly, 70% of GfK's respondents placed a high value on seamless integration between the features of their phone and being able to access content.

"The scope for brands to lure customers from rivals has diminished and the richest rewards will go to those providers that can create the most harmonious user experience and develop this brand loyalty," its report said.

Data sourced from Reuters; additional content by Warc staff