How Apple sales are hitting a language barrier

By , Feb 10, 2013

siri languages

Do you need another metric to follow in the race between Apple and Android? How about language?

That’s the focus of a new report suggesting Apple’s iPhone is predominantly focused on English-speaking nations while Android-powered Samsung smartphones are popular in Asia, Africa and South America, where English-speaking consumers are a minority.

After sifting through the Twitter accounts of both Apple and Samsung, a Saudi Arabian researcher at King Saud University (KSU) found 75 percent of Apple’s followers spoke English, while about 35 percent of Samsung’s online fans were non-English speakers…

KSU’s Dr. Esam Alwagait explains (via Cult of Android):

According to our research, while Apple is more popular in English-speaking countries, Samsung predominates elsewhere, particularly in Asia and Africa.

Apple could make gains by producing an iPhone more “user friendly” to non-English-speaking consumers, he conjectured.

In a chart illustrating the numbers of Samsung and Apple Twitter followers across various continents, the two rivals were closely matched in regions such as North America, Europe and Australia, the two smartphone makers showed a wide disparity in Asia, Africa and South America which don’t speak English.

While the researcher’s call for greater greater user friendliness is a bit of a misnomer, there is a need for increased localization of Apple products.

KSU Localization (Apple and Samsung language data 001)

Since launching the iPhone 5 in India on November 2, Apple has made changes to its two key stores for iOS devices, as well as music and media purchased through iTunes. The App Store now offers India’s consumers to buy iOS apps with the local rupee, rather than only U.S. dollars.

However, the South Korean Samsung already has a global lead in localization.

According to Alwagait, 25 percent of Samsung Twitter followers speak Spanish, while another ten percent speak Portuguese, a language frequently used in South America, Africa and Asia.

As Cult of Android points out, another reason for Samsung’s lead in non-English speaking regions is the company offers a variety of handset options. By comparison, Apple offers just the iPhone.

Apple hasn’t exactly stood still in adapting to non-English speaking markets.

KSU Localization (Apple and Samsung language data 002)

Along with reports that Siri could offer its spoken guidance in a number of languages, South Korea’s Hyundai announced at the recent CES Siri would become available in its autos. In Brazil, Apple is expected to offer its iPhone 5 with support for the Portuguese language.

Perhaps the largest barrier for Apple to non-English speaking nation is price.

From emerging markets like China, India and Brazil come reports that Android is ahead because of its lower price. Apple is adapting to the realities and trying to make some headway in this area by, for example, experimenting with some new interest-free payment plans in China.

If you’re a non-US reader, I’d love to hear your take on Apple’s localization efforts in your market.

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  • http://twitter.com/AmpxMC David Morones

    I don’t know, for my family iphone is just great. English/Spanish for my dad and I.

  • http://www.facebook.com/akmal.kadirov.31 Akmal Kadirov

    Nahh bullshit… Lang pack in iOs more stronger than Androids… Its no sense about language, better try to calculate buget of the owner… And you will see that more richer countries are using iDevices more then poor countries… And that is fact that? richer countries speaking english better and more then other does… Lets say america, europe and etc… Got me guys?

    • Tr1pTr0p

      Your comment is full of nonsense. Countries in the far east can be labeled anything but “poor countries”, and to even assume how english-speaking nations are richer is utter bullshit. Vast majority of Europe only speaks english as their second (or other) language. I understand what you’re trying to say, but you’re still very wrong. Japan, China and South Korea, for example, are among the worlds strongest economies, and Apple’s marketshare is from 2 times (in South Korea) to even 4 times (China and Japan) smaller than Android’s.

    • Mohammad Ridwan

      That’s a very narrow minded and inaccurate view.

    • http://www.facebook.com/living4jaanu Angel Rana

      what do u wanna say about rich countries/ poor countries.. thats a dumb comment!!

    • Ben

      Europe’s not a country…

      • http://twitter.com/jc_ru Ilya Kazakov

        nobody cares :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/linton.findlay Linton Findlay

    all the Asians at my uni have iphones, and im from the uk

  • http://www.facebook.com/teslakiiing Viktor Hansson

    Localization here in sweden is quite good. Only thing we’re waiting for is Siri. However we begin studying english at the age of 10 so it is not that big of a problem. Except it sounds stupied talking in english around people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/farid.hennaoui Farid Hennaoui

    well i live in Algeria i own iphone beginning from the 3G now i have 4s it cost me about one month salary; yes too expensive but what can i do im an ifan (not a fanboy lol ;-) i was planing to switch to android in case jailbreak is not released thanx to 3vad3r im still an idb reader .

    but android is leading here cause it’s cheaper /sd card /battery removable /blue-tooth file sharing /radio fm. those are a key reason for baying a phone when all is about pirating and sharing when you don’t have even the 3g connection or digital payment system established

    sorry dev’s for pirating your app’s we are not enjoying it but we have no other solution

  • Zorvage

    I just hope Dutch will be implented in iOS7, and not only on the iPhone5S.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1603181306 Hazem Mounir Alindari

    In my country (uae) you will find apple is the brand of arabs and android for pakistanies and banegladish (workers)

  • Guest

    I think language is not the problem,, problems is $$$.. here in India (or I say my location New Delhi) 99.99% users r using English as their first preferred language on EVERY smartphone (and doesn’t want any other local language, but the Accent of our own English language or pronunciation while interacting with Siri should be improved… (Example, for me Canada’s accent is doing much better for me instead of any other English language. (Also talking not talking about JBked/ :P “Any voice” is not that much good though)

  • Guest

    I think language is not the problem,, main problems is $$$.. here in India (or I say my location New Delhi) 99.99% users r using English as their first preferred language on EVERY smartphone (and doesn’t want any other local language, but the Accent of our own English language or pronunciation while interacting with Siri should be improved… (Example, for me Canada’s accent is doing much better for me instead of any other English language. (Also talking not talking about JBked/ :P “Any voice” is not that much good though)

  • Guest

    I think language is not that much issue in most cases,, main problem is $$$.. here in India (or If I say at my location New Delhi) 99.99% users r using English as their first preferred language on EVERY smartphone (and doesn’t want any other local language, but the Accent of our own English language or pronunciation while interacting with Siri should be improved here,, n also for every other country too… (Example, for me Canada’s accent is doing much better for me instead of any other English language. (Also not talking about JBked/ :P “Any voice” is not that much good though)

    • http://www.facebook.com/living4jaanu Angel Rana

      U must be in so much hurry or just typing very fast on a low connection or editing Ur post again for correction, U accidentally spammed it :P Sometimes, it happens :P…btw i got ur point, $ers are more imp point. agreed…

      • Rawn Maan

        :P ,,(I was testing something here), also I tried SIRI for the above comment, n see she did pretty nicely :D :D with just few mistakes :P (bcoz of that it looks like i spammed here :P :D

  • Jimothy

    I’d be thrilled if Siri could speak Russian.

    • http://www.facebook.com/liamsagooch Liam Googolplex Merlyn

      It would sound pretty badass haha

      • Jimothy

        Well, I mean, not only that, but it would also help me learn a little more.

    • http://twitter.com/jc_ru Ilya Kazakov

      while it’s nothing more than a joke, we in russia are really waiting for apple to make that b*tch speak russian.

      • Jimothy

        I’m being serious, no disrespect on my end. It must suck not having her support your language. :(

      • http://twitter.com/jc_ru Ilya Kazakov

        Yeah, anyway it understands my accent pretty much okay, but it’s way more natural to speak with Russian rather than English. So we are waiting. The good thing is that we finally got iTunes Stone and now can shop tons of music.

  • http://www.facebook.com/raschmin Raschmin Steinbrecher

    Where is russian??? Lots of countries speak russian language!

  • http://twitter.com/Cabezz0n Tom García

    Actually, it all depends on each budget. As a person from South America, I have 3 or 4 friends/family members with an iDevice. Most of people have low-cost android devices (those running Android 2.2) and also blackberry (curve model) is really popular, just because they are really cheap!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Kularius Dariusz Kulczyna

    I live in Thailand at the moment and believe that as Thai love new “toys” and love to show off with for example new iPhone 5 I can easy say that most of them (special young ones) is using Samsung, HTC etc… And I think the reason is PRICE – take 25% off from iPhone 5 and you will see how many new customers you will find in country like Thailand.

  • http://twitter.com/iambhavin Bhavin Shah

    i am from India. Here, the only reason why people follow/like/buy Android phones over iOS is PRICE. period. [we use english as our default language, no matter if its a nokia, samsung, htc, micromax or iphone]

  • Yuri

    I am from South Africa apple is starting to sale more and more .
    The problem is data (3g ) is expensive so most people are using black berries to get cheap internet

  • Vasco Breitenfeld

    Waiting for a portuguese siri

  • http://twitter.com/iAli7336 iAli

    In the UAE we have an offical online store but we don’t have a local Apple store only Authorized resellers and premium resellers,the international Warranty isn’t applied here, If you want to get warranty coverage you should purchase your Apple product from these Authorized resellers,regarding Siri No Arabic Support Too

  • http://twitter.com/SSBBruce 侯典邑

    I’m in Taiwan(NOT a part of China), and there are 14 iPhones out of 30 people.

    • http://twitter.com/xuz0 Bing

      Right…. If u think ROP can’t represent “china”