When you purchase a smart phone, do you go with the latest iPhone or the latest Android-powered device? The answer for the majority is the former as Apple continues to expand on its brand dominance. Whether or not the next device in Apple’s line of phones or tablets offers many changes, their products are commonly seen as the best in the industry and hence, their continued growth.

Their growth has been so spectacular in recent years in fact, that global research agency Millward Brown has placed Apple above Google as the world’s most valuable brand.

If you check out Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money or any other stock look-up, you can see that Apple’s market capitalization is already almost twice that of Google’s, but Millward Brown’s BRANDZ index looks at a variety of indicators to rank the top 100 brands in the world, including, “an estimate of the brand’s contribution to earnings, valuation of intangible assets, measures of customer perception and an estimate of growth potential.”

In the case of Apple, the brand’s contribution to earnings may be the biggest factor of them all. That and customer perception are put on display upon launch of every new Apple product. Google and Apple have been competitors on several fronts for some time now, from operating systems and browsers, to their own app stores and media offerings.

Peter Walshe, global BrandZ director at Millward Brown, explains that Apple is succeeding by appealing to both mainstream consumers and by businesses alike, and that the higher price point on Apple products gives them the perception of being luxury goods and hence, more desirable.

“The anecdotal evidence is that if employees are given the choice of two similar jobs they opt for the one with better technology for its employees — for example an iPad.”

If we look outside the devices themselves to the services Google and Apple offer, the former is known for offering almost everything for free. Users don’t pay for YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, calling through Gchat, or Google’s mighty search engine, etc. whereas on Apple, apps and music through iTunes are big money makers, far more than the Android marketplace thanks to its vast user base.

For Google to win back the #1 spot, they’re going to have to grow in the mobile hardware market to compete with Apple, and not just in Android-powered phones. Rumor has it that they’re working on a Google tablet, but how will it succeed where the powerful Android-powered Xoom failed?

What are you feelings on the products and services Google and Apple offer?

Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.

Sources: Financial Times, Techland