iPhone 5 (in hand, right angled)

Whenever I stumble upon a survey predicting that Apple’s iPhone will loose traction to not just Android, but Windows Phone as well, my blood starts to boil in my veins.

And just like clockwork, you can count on the likes of IDC and Gartner to come out of the woodwork every now and then with wild predictions of the iPhone’s demise by 2015, 2016 or 2017.

History has taught me to take such long-term predictions with a healthy dose of skepticism, even more so if data comes from big name firms whose crystal ball peering is based on “polls” that sample a few hundred random people, at best.

With that in mind, here’s a survey that paints a rather rosy future for the Apple smartphone. Noting that Android is actually losing one out of every six customers to other phone vendors, Yankee Group ran their spreadsheets and determined that Apple will surpass Android in U.S. market share by 2015, provided Apple brand loyalty numbers hold up in the coming years…

Two key factors that will drive Apple’s ownership past Android’s peak: Apple’s unmatched ecosystem loyalty and people upgrading from feature phones to their first smartphone.

“While buying intent for new customers to both Apple’s and Android’s ecosystem is about the same, platform loyalty is not,” according to Yankee, which polled 16,000 consumers over the last year.

And should Apple address the low-end of first-time smartphone buyers in emerging markets with a rumored budget iPhone model, the trend will favor Apple even more.

AllThingsD passes along the Yankee Group numbers proving that even though Samsung’s Radio City Music Hall launch of the Galaxy S4 made headlines, consumer buying data shows that at the checkout counter, “Apple continues to eat Samsung’s lunch.”

That’s the power of the iPhone’s ‘halo effect’ for you.

Apple’s “black hole” ecosystem captures subscribers who never leave, while Android smartphones are losing one out of every six customers to other manufacturers. These trends will drive Apple ownership well past Android ownership by 2015 and will reinforce Apple’s dominance in tablets as well.

As measured by pretty much every credible brand agency out there, the Apple brand has a strong pull, second to none.

Yankee Group (Android vs Apple loyalty)

A UBS Research survey from September 2012 revealed that nearly nine out each ten iPhone owners will never buy another brand of smartphone.

Yankee agrees, likening the Apple and Android ecosystems to two buckets of water, with the Android bucket leaking badly:

New smartphone buyers – mostly upgrading feature phone owners – fall like rain into the two big buckets about equally, with a smaller number falling into Windows Phone and BlackBerry buckets. However, the Android bucket leaks badly, losing about one in five of all the owners put into it.

The Apple bucket leaks only about seven percent of its contents, so it retains more of the customers that fall into it. The Apple bucket will fill up faster and higher than the Android one, regardless of the fact that the Apple bucket may have had fewer owners in it to begin with.

I love the bucket analogy a lot!

Specifically, only nine percent of Apple owners plan to switch to another platform with their next phone purchase, while 24 percent of Android owners plan to defect from the Android platform, with eighteen percent of Android owners intending to switch to Apple.

Yankee Group (Android vs Apple loyalty 002)

According to UBS, Apple’s iPhone boasted an astounding 89 percent retention rate last September while HTC phones recorded the second highest retention rate of just 39 percent. Matter of fact, Apple claimed a 50 percent retention rate lead over all other smartphone makers in terms of customer loyalty.

Yankee Group (Android vs Apple loyalty 001)

Yankee also observes that consumer intent to buy Samsung phones is less than half that of iPhones in the U.S. “In fact, iPhone intent to buy is statistically tied with the intent to buy all Android phones combined,” the research firm concludes.

True, this is yet another market research and as such should be taken with a grain of salt. On the flip side, it’s definitely nice seeing there are researchers out there who actually bother taking into account factors other than unit shipments in their research, don’t you think?