**Editor's Note: Click here for our list of December's hottest selling smartphones to see how Apple and Samsung handsets fared against the competition.**
Long a leader in brand loyalty, Apple's iPhone will have to step aside in that segment of the smartphone race, at least according to one study.
Brand Keys' 2013 Consumer Loyalty Engagement Index shows that Samsung, the global leader in smartphone sales, is now the leader in smartphone loyalty. The Korea-based manufacturer also tied Apple for second place in tablet loyalty, trailing the leader, Amazon and its Kindle Fire.
“This is a big turnaround," said Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, the brand research consultancy company. “Samsung was always strong, but this is a bit of a switchover. It was a surprise. I guess it shouldn’t have been. I’ve been watching their advertising, and I thought it was really good."
Positioning itself as the "anti-Apple," Passikoff noted the promotions for Samsung's Galaxy series that mocked Apple fans' anticipation for the iPhone 5.
“I think they’re making real inroads," Passikoff said. “I think [some of it] is the technology. But a lot of it has to do with how they’re positioning themselves in the marketplace, [particularly for] the younger marketplace."
The Brand Keys Index tracks many other consumer categories, including wireless providers. AT&T came in first, followed by Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.
“A lot of people bitch and moan about AT&T, but if you look at their retention rates, they have the highest levels in the category,” Passikoff said. “The fact is, when it comes to real numbers that [we use to] say what are people doing, they’re sticking with AT&T.”