Apple's stock may be sliding as investors fret about growing
competition, but store visits and interviews with smartphone and tablet
shoppers in 10 cities around the world suggest consumers share little of
With tablets and other mobile devices the gadgets of
choice this holiday season, Reuters canvassed over 70 shoppers and
store employees across Sydney, Seattle, Palo Alto, Shanghai, Bangalore,
Singapore, Paris, London, Mexico City and Boston for insight into what
does and doesn't beckon.
Apple stores and electronics retailers
were bustling last week, in contrast to the Microsoft pop-up stores in
the United States promoting Windows 8 and Surface tablets, which were
far less crowded.
Samsung appeared to be marketing aggressively,
blanketing stores across major cities with signs for its Galaxy products
and other devices, and large displays in many stores. Customers
noticed, but only in Singapore and Bangalore did most of those spoken to
by Reuters see it as a top choice.
Nokia, meanwhile, seems to
have all but vanished from the front lines of the retail wars. Amazon's
Kindle devices were also little in evidence, though that likely reflects
its greater online sales focus.
Apple and its rivals are duking
it out in displays, buying advertising and mobilizing armies of
employees to try to win over the swarm of shoppers who will hit malls
across the globe in coming weeks.
Loyalty to Apple's compelling
orchard of products seemed to be a first line of defense for the
Cupertino, California, company as shoppers in Europe, Asia and the
United States weighed the pros and cons of switching to rival offerings.
cited existing iTunes music and video libraries plus the traditional
Apple virtues of simplicity and ease of use as reasons to stick with the
iPhone and the iPad.
"I just taught my Persian grandmother how to
use her new iPhone. She's 77 and speaks no English," said Soheil
Arzang, a 27-year-old law student in Palo Alto, California. "With a
Windows PC there are so many buttons, it's confusing. I converted my
parents officially to Apple iPhones, Macs and iPads."
"used to go to Best Buy, but now he just says 'let's go to the Apple
store,'" Arzang said at a store near company headquarters.
Paris, Max Cevenne, a 62-year-old photographer whose iPad was recently
stolen, grilled a sales clerk about how Samsung's 10-inch Galaxy tablet
would work with his PC at home.
"The Samsung appeals to me because
it has an SD (digital memory) card and is more flexible in terms of
software and hardware you can use with it," he said at the FNAC
electronics store near St Lazare train station. "But I may end up going
back to the iPad since I already use other Apple products, and it might
Across the English Channel at a John Lewis department
store in London, Joanna Sargent cast her eye over Amazon's Kindle Fire,
but since she's bought three iPad Minis for her sons, she said she
would probably stay with what's familiar.
"I looked at going for
another tablet, but although they are cheaper, you have to re-buy
everything," she said. "We'd have to buy all the music again, and you
have to take that into account."
Train engineer John Owen from Didcot, Oxfordshire, echoed: "Apple's got me in now."
What's hot, and what's not
three years after their inception, tablet computers are the
indispensable item. In a U.S. Ipsos poll conducted for Thomson Reuters
from December 8 to December 11, one in three of 1,330 people surveyed
were thinking of buying one of the slim gadgets.
predisposed, 42 percent were leaning toward an iPad or iPad Mini, 16
percent were considering the Kindle Fire, and 14 percent a Samsung
Galaxy. A mere 4 percent of respondents were drawn to Microsoft's
Apple has led the mobile industry since it launched its
first iPhone in 2007 and then the iPad in 2010. But rivals including
Samsung, Google, Amazon and Microsoft are making gradual inroads. IPads
accounted for 54 percent of the tablet market this year but are expected
to dip to 50 percent by 2016 as competing tablets gain ground,
according to market research firm IDC.
Apple has lost a quarter of its value since September as fears grow about its ability to fend off challengers.
Samsung in particular appears to have launched a global marketing blitz at stores and malls around the world.
Mexico City, its logo was plastered on signs on roads and outside
retailers such as Sanborns and Iusacell. Despite that high visibility,
an employee at one shop said he's selling about 15 iPads a week.
iPad mini is selling out as soon as we receive the shipments. Last week
we got 42 and this week 32, and they sold almost immediately. A lot
of people buy them as gifts," he said.
There are 88.5 million
mobile phone users in Mexico, out of which just 15 million have
smartphones, according to industry data, an example of the sizeable
potential market that Apple, Samsung and others are fighting for.
India, where mobile phone sales grew at a 47 percent clip in the third
quarter, according to Gartner research, iPhones are still the gold
standard, and many models were sold out.
But Androids are steadily
attracting consumers. In tech-savvy Bangalore, the affordable
smartphones are pervasive, replacing many of the Nokia feature phones
popular in the past.
IPhones and iPads are too expensive for many
Indians, but that didn't discourage a steady stream of keen window
shoppers at an electronics market plastered with Samsung advertising.
have to pay the Apple premium, but when you consider the ease-of-use
and the whole Apple ecosystem, it's well worth the money," said
29-year-old Karthik Venkataraman.
That same stickiness was also a deterrent for many.
"I want to be able to sync to different devices," said Chenelle Brandford, a 17-year-old student from North London.
Singapore, the Samsung kiosk at a StarHub store was crowded, with
customers testing out the South Korean manufacturer's Note 2
"I didn't want to get stuck in the Apple ecosystem," said one customer who recently bought an Android phone made by LG.
a major electronics retailer in downtown Shanghai, most tablet shoppers
said their first choice would be an iPad, but Samsung also had its
share of fans.
"I don't like the iPad because it is too
inconvenient to use. You cannot drag files directly into it but only by
using iTunes," said Wang Daliu, 26 and unemployed. "The iPad has a
closed system, limiting its capability."
Amazon, Google and Microsoft sell most of their tablets online, their
devices came up less often than Samsung's and Apple's in Reuters
interviews with shoppers.
Those companies are building their own
ecosystems, but none have neared Apple's success at creating a
simple-to-use, closed market of apps, music and content.
worried about declining PC sales, launched its foray into hardware with
the Surface tablet in October to compete with the iPad.
world's largest software company has not revealed sales figures for the
tablet, which has won mixed reviews and is only available in its own
stores and online in certain countries. On Tuesday, Microsoft said it
would sell the Surface through more retailers starting this month.
a mall in Boston, one person wandered into a Microsoft store for every
nine who visited a nearby Apple store on a weekday last week. In Palo
Alto, 40-year-old Javier Sanchez returned his Surface.
iPad, it's one step, and with this (Surface), it's two or three steps to
do the same thing," said Sanchez, who also uses a Mac and an iPhone.
"You open (the iPad) and it's ready for you."
Things looked not
much brighter on Microsoft's home turf, in the greater Seattle area. A
sales assistant at a Best Buy said he had been quizzed about sales of
the Windows 8 device.
"A whole bunch of Microsoft guys basically
interviewed me, asking me how well things were selling," he said,
without going into details.
Another assistant, asked if the same store had 32GB or 64GB Surface tablets in stock, said, laughing: "We got plenty of both!"
Apple is likely to reveal holiday sales only in January, alongside results. For now, the loyalists have spoken.
far more familiar with Apple," said Linda Jenkins at the Carphone
Warehouse in London. Her husband, Vaughan, chimed in: "But they haven't
taken us over yet!"
© Thomson Reuters 2012