Does Everybody Really Love the iPhone?


If 65% of wireless phone owners would make Apple's (NAS: AAPL) iconic iPhone their next smartphone, it would be just a matter of time before the world's most valuable tech company would see its share price vault into the quadruple digits.

A new survey by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster suggests that most consumers will make Apple's revolutionary handset their next wireless device, but don't run off and back up the truck to buy more shares.

Sure, Munster's findings are impressive. A whopping 65% of those responding are sold on Apple's iOS handset -- ideally the upcoming iPhone 5 -- as their next phone. Just 19% of the phone owners claim that a phone running Google's (NAS: GOOG) Android will be their next upgrade. Your heart has to go out to Research In Motion (NAS: RIMM) , since only 2.5% of the respondents are planning on going BlackBerry with their next purchase.

Munster is one of the better Apple analysts. He's been correct with his bullish sentiment over the years. He was early in announcing that Apple was moving toward the inevitable launch of a full-blown HDTV (which we will definitely be seeing sooner rather than later).

However, it's hard to take this survey too seriously.

For starters, there were just 400 phone owners surveyed. Statistically speaking, it's dangerous to extrapolate the intentions of roughly 260 people -- or 65% of 400 -- as the sentiment of the masses. There's also the massive asterisk that more than half of the survey participants -- 52% -- are already iPhone owners.

Now, Apple is good, but it's not that good. Because they are cheap, open source, and made by a wide variety of manufacturers, Android devices dramatically outsell iPhones. The fact that more than half of any survey respondents are iPhone owners illustrates the problem with the narrow sample size. Yes, the survey still shows that more folks plan to make an iPhone their next purchase than the folks who currently own one, but there are flaws in the metrics.

Perhaps more importantly, we don't know what will come next. Android handsets come out at a headier clip than Apple's annual updates, so it's hard to compare what the competition will look like when the iPhone 5 rolls out later this year. Microsoft's (NAS: MSFT) Windows Phone 8 may be a difference-maker, and seeing the Lumia 900 slashed to a price below $50 shows that Microsoft isn't afraid to sacrifice margins for the sake of market share at this important juncture.

As an iPhone owner, there's no doubt where I'm going next when my iPhone 4S is ready for an upgrade. Apple is it for me. However, I'm merely a sample of one. Sure, 400 largely iPhone owners is a far better indicator, but not enough to make any realistic conclusion.

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