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People queue for the global launch of the BlackBerry Bold 9790, also known as the BlackBerry Bellagio, at a mall in Jakarta November 25, 2011. According to local media, the handset was being offered at an almost 50% discount for the first 1000 customers. A survey by research firm Gfk suggests more than half of those folks will not want to buy a BlackBerry again.SUPRI

Apple is well ahead of rivals in building brand loyalty among its users in a mobile market where the key brands are rushing to build as large a foothold as possible, a study by research firm GfK showed.

Some 84 per cent of iPhone users said they would pick iPhone also when they replace their cellphone, while 60 per cent of consumers who use smartphones running Google's Android said they would stick with phones using the same software.

Only 48 per cent of people using Research In Motion's cellphones said they would stay loyal to their BlackBerrys, the study showed.

Smartphone sales have been surging since Apple introduced its first iPhone in 2007 and even though the growth has slowed the sales still rose 49 per cent last quarter from a year ago, according to research firm IDC.

Ryan Garner, analyst at GfK, said the ongoing rush to build market position was crucial for the future success of the brands as on average 63 per cent of consumers are sticking to the type of phone they have – lowering the chance for fast changes in the market place.

Mr. Garner said fast growth of Android and launch of new Microsoft Windows, which will be similar for PCs, tablets and smartphones, mean there are still opportunities for others.

"Apple is clearly ahead of the game, but developments next year will challenge that," Garner said.

Another part of the survey found "19 per cent of consumers that own both an iPad and an iPhone believe that changing types of smartphone is more difficult than changing bank accounts or gas or electricity providers."

More than 70 per cent of consumers said they would stick with their phones due to their seamless integration of features and access to content.

"The scope for brands to lure customers from rivals has diminished and the richest rewards will go to those providers that can create the most harmonious user experience and develop this brand loyalty," GfK said.

The research firm interviewed around 4,500 people in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, China, the United States and Japan.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 4S hit store shelves in India on Friday with a starting price about four times the U.S. retail price where customers buy mandatory data-service plans, the phone may still find buyers among affluent young professionals in India who are snapping up iconic brands and luxury items.

Unlike their western peers, Indian mobile operators do not subsidize cost of phones, which have a starting price of 44,500 rupees.

Media reports last week said Indian fans were unhappy that the smartphone will be more expensive in India than anywhere else in the world.

On Friday, the Aircel website showed that the 64 GB version, both black and white, was sold out.

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