What To Make Of The Wisdom Of Crowds: Motorola Tops Brand Survey, Apple 5th

Who are the top mobile brands in the U.S.? Asking the media versus asking 25,099 U.S. consumers might produce different results.

Although Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) is winning in terms of market cap, profits and general media adulation for its mobile products, when it comes to brand love, it is not. According to the latest Harris Interactive EquiTrend poll, it only came out fifth in the company’s mobile phone rankings.

The rankings bear out the fact that a sizeable majority of consumers still do not have smartphones, and do not necessarily place a premium on those who develop high-end (read: expensive) products. The top spot went to Motorola (NYSE: MMI), which still has a strong business in non-smartphones. And in second comes HTC, a smartphone maker, yes, but one who has a range of devices that are often sold at price points lower than the iPhone.

Third and fourth positions respectively went to Sony (NYSE: SNE) Ericsson (NSDQ: ERIC) and Nokia (NYSE: NOK), who, like Motorola, have strong businesses in feature phones — and some might say relatively little in the way of smartphone share in the U.S.

What will these rankings mean longer term? Harris Interactive’s rankings reflect the results of a poll taken in two weeks in January, but what’s interesting is how they hold up as more people continue to adopt smartphones.

On the one hand, it could spell good news for companies like Motorola, Sony Ericsson and Nokia: as users of these companies’ feature phones sell up for more sophisticated models, they could end up sticking with the brands that they know and buy their smartphones.

On the other hand, selling up could find these users switching and following trends already prevalent among smartphone users: shopping around for the best Android devices and perhaps a resurgence for Apple among the wider population and not just early adopters and high spenders — especially if the company makes a move into offering different levels of iPhones, along the lines of what it does in its iPod product range.

Among mobile service providers, Verizon topped the charts above AT&T (NYSE: T) for the second year running, with Clearwire (NSDQ: CLWR) the surprise third place mobile operator. T-Mobile didn’t even make it into the top-six as you can see from the table below.

Among other winners, HP (NYSE: HPQ) topped the computer category, Sony topped consumer electronics, and Nintendo was the most-loved gaming brand. It will be interesting to see if these companies can covert that love into an affinity that also drives consumers to buy the more cutting edge products like tablets and handheld gaming consoles that are the closest yet that gaming devices have come to being like mobile handsets.