Metrics are fun. You can pretty much read into them whatever you like. The latest example if this CIRP study, as reported by Ina Fried of AllThingsD:
“Previous smartphone owners buy Apple iPhones much more than first-time owners,” according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. “Almost 50 percent of previous owners buy an iPhone, while under one-third of first-time owners buy an iPhone.”
So on the Apple is doomed side, we have "Apple failing to wow first time buyers", while on the Apple is winning side we have "disenchanted with other platforms, repeat buyers switch to Apple". Neither, of course, paints a balanced picture of a complex market.
Apple doesn't currently choose to compete in the low-end smartphone space. (The iPhone 4 is subsidized to free, it isn't inexpensive when bought flat out, which is how phones are often bought outside North American markets.) The early adopters and enthusiasts, those who aren't as price sensitive, have long since gotten on the smartphone bandwagon. The next billion adopters will come from the feature-phone crowd, and for them price is one of, if not the most, important factor. At least at first. That swing from 30% to 50% shows that quite a few change their minds after experiencing a low-end device from one of Apple's competitors, and when it's time to upgrade, they go iPhone instead.
(It'd be interesting to see how many first time buyers go for high-end Android devices, like Galaxy S4 or HTC One, compared to lower-cost alternatives. Sadly, Windows Phone and BlackBerry both scored under 10% in both categories, with slightly more first time buyers than repeat.)
If the iPhone 5c rumors are true, Apple might soon start addressing those new customers and emerging markets with a device that's less expensive, if not cheap. Then we'll have to revisit the metrics.
Meanwhile, was your first smartphone an iPhone? Or did you come to Apple after using something else? (I had a Treo 680 before the iPhone.)