UK Survey Indicates Palm Pre More Anticipated Than the iPhone

Market Research group TNS has published the results of a survey that finds the Palm Pre, due to be launched in the UK later this month, is more positively anticipated by consumers than the iPhone was in 2007.

Reported today on Electronista, the survey from TNS claims that of the 1,000 UK residents polled, a whopping 26 percent claimed they will buy, or probably will buy, a Palm Pre following its debut on the O2 network on October 16. That’s compared with only 16 percent who expressed a desire to buy the iPhone when it was launched two years ago.

Furthermore, a stunning 32 percent of consumers currently signed to other carriers expressed a desire to switch to O2 in order to get their hands on Palm’s beleaguered new device.

The report from TNS states;

While awareness of the Palm Pre is lower than that of the iPhone pre-launch, the figures suggest that once the new handset hits the shelves it has the potential to capture a substantial share of the UK’s smartphone market.

I know what you’re thinking, and I wondered the same thing; are UK consumers horribly uninformed, undemanding digital dilettantes…or is there something more to these results than first meets the eye?

A Rare Positive Sign for Palm?

Electronista suggests the apparent eagerness to get a Pre may lie in the fact that O2 is offering the handset for free with a two year contract. When the iPhone launched, O2 charged £269 ($426) for Apple’s paradigm-shifting handset. Says Electronista:

The study if reflective of the wider UK market would be a rare positive sign for Palm, which has struggled to maintain attention for the Pre in the US and has only exported the Pre to Canadians until the pan-European launches this week

I’d love to know more about the socio-economic and geographic distribution of the sample TNS polled. Sadly, there’s no such explanation, beyond a single line at the end of their summary that reads, “Online study of n=1,003 adults aged 16-64, October 2009.” I asked TNS for more information, but never heard back from them. (If they do get back to me, I’ll update this article appropriately.)

Kevin Evans, Associate Director at TNS Technology, adds:

With other promising new launches including Vodafone 360, MOTOBLUR and next-generation versions of Windows Mobile also challenging the iPhone’s position as the dominant mobile multimedia platform, this is an exciting time for the industry and a great time to be a consumer.

Really? It remains to be seen whether the Vodafone 360 and MOTOBLUR platforms provide a truly compelling route into smartphone adoption — they’re mostly built (and marketed) around the aggregation of social networking services and multimedia consumption. These features might attract young consumers unable to afford an iPhone, but I’m skeptical that this price-advantage will afford them a “substantial” share of the UK smartphone market.

And as for the “next-generation versions of Windows Mobile,” (I must tread carefully here, so as to avoid the accusations of “Fanboy!” in the comments below) WM7 has been so often delayed that at this point, it’s more accurately labeled vaporware than considered potential competition to modern smartphone platforms. I’d like to think that Mr Evans had his tongue wedged firmly in his cheek when he suggested Windows Mobile contributed to this being an ‘exciting time’ for the industry.

I’m all for competition shaking up the market (after all, strong competition is the only thing that drives downs prices and keeps products from stagnating), but I have to question just how representative of the UK market these results can truly be. So, with that in mind, I’ll go out on a limb and predict that, 12 months from now, the exciting shake-up of the UK smartphone market, as promised by this report, will not have come to pass.

In the meantime, I wonder how many publishers and broadcasters will run with the results of this survey, citing it as ‘evidence’ the iPhone has had its day?

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