With Android and iPhone now combining for nearly 90 percent of the U.S. smartphone market, many app developers are concentrating their efforts on serving the majority of smartphone users through these two platforms. But there is an inherent tension when resources are limited and developers must choose one over the other, or decide which platform to develop for first. As a result, every app developer should be armed with some basic facts around the differences between Android and iPhone users when making these decisions.
According to Comscore MobiLens data from December 2012, Android currently owns the larger market share at 53 percent, while iPhone holds a strong #2 position at 36 percent. However, market share alone is not sufficient for driving development decisions because iPhone users have different characteristics that often make them attractive from a development standpoint. Here are some key differences in user dynamics between Android and iPhone users that every developer should know.
iPhone Users are Slightly Younger and More AffluentiOS is popular among a slightly younger demographic than Android users, with 18-24 year olds representing 19 percent of all iPhone owners compared to 16 percent of Android owners. That said, Android users on the whole skew younger than the total U.S. mobile market, indicating that they still have a very attractive profile on this dimension. Another important demographic difference is average household income, with 41 percent of iPhone owners falling in the $100,000+ income segment vs. 24 percent of Android owners. With iPhones selling at a higher average price point than most Android phones, this difference should not be a complete surprise. Still, it may be an important differentiator for marketers.
Android Users Have Broader Content Category Reach, Despite iOS Users’ Higher PropensityNot only do Android and iOS users look different, but they also engage differently with mobile content. iPhone owners are sometimes described as “power users” on their phones and are relatively more likely to engage in all major content categories than Android owners: 10 percent more likely to use social media on a daily basis, 7 percent more likely to access news, and 15 percent more likely to visit online retail sites. While iPhone owners engage with more content on average, the Android platform has a greater number of media users in each category. This of course poses an interesting dilemma for developers who must consider whether audience size or engagement is the more important determinant of success for their apps. Do they need to have a higher number of users, or do they want the type of users who engage more frequently? A lot will depend on how they intend to monetize the apps.
iPhone Users More Likely to Engage in M-CommerceOne of the more important mobile trends to develop over the past year is the emergence of m-commerce, where smartphone owners actually make purchases on their phones. Once again, iPhone users show a greater propensity to engage in this behavior with 23 percent having done so vs. 17 percent of Android owners. iPhone owners are also more likely to make purchases on their phones on a regular basis. These are important considerations for both retail app developers and those seeking to monetize via paid apps or in-app purchase.
iPhone Satisfaction Corresponds with High Device LoyaltyDevice satisfaction and brand loyalty are differentiating factors that marketers, strategists, and developers also should consider since they, in part, determine long term market share. iPhone owners tend to think very highly of their devices, and as a result they are likely to remain iPhone users over time. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of iPhone owners are highly satisfied with their device, and more than 80 percent of them have previously owned an iPhone. Android owners maintain a fairly high percentage of highly satisfied users at 48 percent, but clearly not at the same level of Apple. Since the majority of Android phones’ hardware is not Google-branded, Apple’s tightly linked hardware and software may offer a certain branding advantage that engenders higher loyalty. Of course, Apple also has a history of excellent marketing campaigns that have cemented the brand’s iconic status.
Developers Should Think About What’s Most Important Before Developing an AppAndroid and iPhone offer the two leading platforms today, and each one possesses its own unique characteristics and advantages. Android’s lead in market share often means the potential for app developers to reach a larger audience, but iPhone makes up for this by boasting an attractive audience to marketers that tends to reflect more highly engaged mobile media users with higher income. Their strong platform loyalty also bodes well for their ability to retain and expand market share over the long term. Understanding and quantifying the differences between the users of each device can help developers make smarter decisions about which audiences and platforms to focus on in order to attract users, drive engagement, generate sales, and ultimately achieve their strategic business objectives.
For more insights on the mobile platform wars, download the recently-released 2013 Mobile Future in Focus, which explores the state of the mobile and connected device landscape in the U.S., with an eye to what the future of mobile will be in 2013.