Brand wars: When it comes to search, Android smokes iOS, but iPhone blows the socks off Android

At the core of the smartphone war is an epic branding fight. Who is the ultimate winner in the hearts and minds of buyers? You might be surprised.

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With last week's launch of the new iPhones and this week's release of iOS 8, it seems like all the world might be an Apple world. Being something of a business geek, I wondered just how successful Apple is in translating its PR machine into brand recognition.

What I found out was fascinating. My research tool of choice was Google Trends, which is able to easily present charts displaying the relative popularity of various search terms. For our purpose today, I’m limiting the Google Trends charting data to simply the last 7 days. That will give us an indication of current popularity of the branding terms we’re about to explore.

Let's start with iOS 8. As you can see, there’s been a bit of a decline since the Apple event last week. Even so, when it comes to search popularity, iOS is about twice as popular than iOS 8. That makes sense since every “iOS x” search will include “iOS” but iOS 8 has to match just “iOS 8”:

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But how does iOS compare to Android? Well, clearly Android as a search term smokes both iOS and iOS 8. But what’s quite interesting is that there’s actually a bump in Android search popularity right after the Apple event:

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So does that mean Android is the branding winner? Not so much. Enter “iPhone”, the mega-brand powerhouse of the mobile brands. While iOS is barely noise in comparison to either iPhone or Android, iPhone is clearly generating twice as much interest as Android:

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This, by the way, is not new. The iPhone brand has more search popularity than the Android brand, going back throughout the year:

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Clearly, the recent iPhone 6 announcements clearly shot that popularity up considerably. How long will it last? Well, that green line is falling pretty fast.

Now, let’s add the iPad and the Apple brand itself into the mix:

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Here, we have some very interesting data. The Apple brand, which has always been a consumer-awareness powerhouse, is taking a distant third place behind not only the iPhone, but Android as well (although the Apple brand benefited from the same PR surge as the iPhone over the last week). Even more interesting is that the iPad shows substantially lower brand equity than any of the other three search terms we’re exploring on this slide.

This is important, because Apple has apparently transferred the bulk of its brand equity from the Apple name itself, to iPhone. While this is certainly important to Apple, this analysis is even more important to the pundits out there. That’s even more clear when you realize “apple” searches result in everything from biblical references to awesome pie recipes.

Since the announcement of the iWat..er…Apple Watch, there’s been some degree of discussion about whether the i-branding is going away. Clearly, with the iPhone brand far more valuable than even the Apple brand itself, it’s not going away any time soon.

So, what about the i-uh-Apple Watch? Is it a big search winner?

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Not even a blip. Okay, a blip, but that’s about it. That little tiny red bump is simply the result of everyone’s surprise that the iWatch was named the Apple Watch. I guess it’s a hobby, too, like the Apple TV. And no, Android Wear doesn't do any better.

Finally, let’s take note of the loyal opposition. Samsung (i.e., “samsung” as a search term) shows a higher popularity than even “android”:

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That’s significant. Of course, like many people, not only do I own a Samsung smartphone, I also have a Samsung refrigerator and microwave.

Samsung is a global brand. It’s enough of a global brand that it substantially eclipses Apple in search on a long-term basis. In fact, with the exception of Apple announcement weeks, Samsung’s brand equity pretty much matches that of the iPhone.

That should worry Apple.

What do you think? Which brands do you find to be the most powerful and universal? TalkBack below.

By the way, I'm doing more updates on Twitter and Facebook than ever before. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz and on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz.