Are UK Consumers Still on the Apple Bandwagon?

Exploring shifting trends around the tech giant’s popularity

As another Christmas rolls around and people once again start putting Apple products on their wish lists, we take a look at the popularity of the tech giant among consumers in 2017. Apple was once the name on everyone’s lips as it created cutting edge iconic products such as the iPhone, MacBook and Apple Watch.
These products established Apple as a leader in consumer technology and made it into a household name, especially at Christmas time, with people spending thousands on the company’s latest editions of their laptops or smartphones. And the prices just keep rising, with the newest iPhone version, iPhone X, retailing at around £770 ($999) – the company’s most expensive smartphone yet.  
But could Apple be experiencing a fall from grace? A recent survey conducted in the US by tech magazine The Verge showed that Apple scored the lowest among the big five technology companies — Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft — in categories for both “somewhat liked” and “greatly liked.”
As the festive season looms closer, and people start gearing up for their Christmas shopping, we decided to see what the online conversations around Apple could reveal about the brand and its products.
For this post, we looked at the social conversation data from Twitter, Facebook, blogs and forums from 2010 to 2017, aiming to answer questions including:

  • What are the shifting trends in positive and negative sentiment around Apple products?
  • What levels of quality and value do people associate with the Apple brand?
  • Are people seeking alternatives to Apple?

Shifting emotional trends

There are signs that some consumers are becoming disillusioned with Apple, seeing it as charging increasingly higher prices yet with less corresponding value for money. A good example of this is when Apple released its previous iPhone incarnation, which lacked the traditional headphone jack.
Apple claimed this was done in order ‘to usher in the new era of wireless headphones’, but many consumers saw it as a blatant attempt to force them to spend even more money on the pricey Apple AirPod Bluetooth earphones, rather than use cheap ordinary earphones.
Below we can see that negative sentiment around Apple has been slowly growing and is starting to outstrip positive sentiment in 2017.

Looking more closely at the specific emotions around Apple we can see a striking result in terms of Anger, which by far eclipses any of the other emotions, such as Joy (which might be expected when talking about Apple products). In 2017, over 60 percent of the emotions related to Apple were classified as Anger.

Perceptions of quality and value

The next graph gives some indication of why consumer sentiment might be this way, as it focuses on how people are discussing the quality of Apple products. Low Quality accounts for a significant proportion of the share of voice (although High Quality does manage to gain a foothold in 2016/17, suggesting Apple is improving its offering).
When a company like Apple has a reputation for high priced premium products, it’s critical to make consumers feel they’re receiving value for money, else risk their disillusionment.    

The below graph shows consumer perceptions of Apple’s affordability, which has long been on the side of ‘unaffordable’, with a small spike towards ‘affordable’ in 2013/14, perhaps coinciding with Apple’s release of the budget range iPhone 5c in autumn of 2013.  

Expensive discussions

On Twitter, #iPhone is most commonly discussed as the ‘most expensive’ Apple product, as shown by its corresponding hashtag in the below chart. The recent release of the iPhone X is likely to have contributed to this sentiment. The iPhone is followed by the #AppleWatch and the #iPad, both popular consumer buys especially in the Christmas season.

Rise of the ‘iPhone killers’

Finally, this leads to our data on the discussion of alternatives to Apple products. In the posts we analysed, we found that alternatives have shot up in the discussion since 2013, rising to an all-time high in 2017 – more than 3x greater in volume than in 2013.

In conclusion, all this data points to a significant downturn in positive consumer sentiment around Apple products. Although dedicated Apple fans are always likely to exist, common perceptions of the company’s products as overpriced and poor value for money are likely to stick, especially with the release of the controversial iPhone X.
With growing numbers of consumers seeking alternatives – and with many good alternatives now on offer – we are likely to see a rise in ‘iPhone killers’ and similar, as increasing numbers of people finally jump off the Apple bandwagon.

To read more about tech trends as seen through the social media analytics lens, take a look at the technology edition of our US Consumer Trends series!

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