Apple Is Most Coveted Mobile Brand in Developing Markets: Report

In China, 42 percent of consumers in a recent poll said the brand they'd most like their next phone to be is an Apple.

Apple is the most coveted brand in the developing world, according to a new report from mobile monetization company Upstream, in conjunction with research firm Ovum. It's an intriguing bit of news, given how unconducive to Apple dominance developing markets are said to be.

Apple is counting on consumers in China, the world's largest smartphone market, to outspend those in the United States and make China Apple's number-one source of revenue. Analysts have cautioned, however, that Apple's price points are a challenge for the market—Samsung offers an array of options at a fraction of the cost of an iPhone. IDC has reported that markets such as China and India are shifting to where sub-$150 phones make up the majority of shipments.

Further, Apple will have to overcome Chinese consumers' preference for local brands.

During the third quarter of 2013 (the most recent data available), Korea-based Samsung was the top-selling smartphone vendor in China, with a 21 percent share of the market, up from 14 percent a year ago, according to data from Canalys. Following it were Chinese brands Lenovo, with a 13 percent share, flat year-over-year; Yulong, with 11 percent, up from 10 percent; and Huawei, with a flat 9 percent share. Apple took fifth place, with a 6 percent share, down from 8 percent a year before, and was followed by another Chinese brand, Xiaomi, with a 5 percent market share, up from 3 percent.

Still, in a poll of more than 4,500 consumers in Brazil, China, India, Nigeria and Vietnam, Apple this year displaced Samsung and became the overall most desired brand, the Upstream report said.

In China, 42 percent of those surveyed said the brand they'd most like to purchase their next phone from is Apple, compared with 32 percent who said Samsung and the 9 percent who said Huawei. In Vietnam, 36 percent said Apple, followed by 21 percent who said Nokia, though in Brazil—a fast growing, highly desirous market for all mobile companies—the win still went to Samsung, which received a 37 percent vote, compared with 28 percent for Apple.

Overall, Apple received 32 percent of votes, followed by Samsung with 29 percent, Nokia with 13 percent, HTC with 5 percent and BlackBerry with 4 percent.

In all five countries, functionality was the top reason people gave for choosing the brand they did.

"This complements Facebook and Ericsson's creation of a lab that enables app developers to test their software on the types of networks and phones available in developing countries," said the report.

The survey also asked about the app stores users frequent and the app-related issues they find most troublesome.

In China, 44 percent of people said they visited their mobile operators' store, while 39 percent also visited the Apple App Store and 27 percent visited the Google Play store. China was the only country of the five in which users (27 percent) said they also visit the Amazon Appstore for Android.

Overall, Google Play was the most visited app store (40 percent) followed by the Apple App Store (28 percent).

When asked about app store frustrations, two answers tied—high numbers of promotional messages and difficulty finding specific apps. Another complaint was a lack of personalized suggestions.

"Blindly approaching new markets without obtaining granular insights into what people in these regions actually want and acknowledging what is important to them will lead to challenges along the way," Upstream CEO Marcho Veremis said in a March 5 statement on the findings.

He continued, "Only when each player truly understands the audience of each region—being able to answer the questions of what's affordable, what content do consumers want and what functionality is preferred—will they be able to connect with the consumers they are trying to reach."