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Who is that iPhone User?

Apr 11 2014, 1:33am CDT | by

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Who is that iPhone User?

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Who is that iPhone User?

My post about reasons for switching to iPhone from Android (more) spurred many comments, including quite a few that went to “what kind of person you must be to have made that decision” [some a bit less than flattering]. This made me wonder how, in actual fact, people who prefer the iPhone differ from people who prefer Android. In particular, I’m impressed that iPhone holds a strong lead over Android in app quality several years after Android surpassed iPhone in market share: new apps and new features keep arriving on iPhone well before Android. What might the characteristics of iPhone users tell me about why that happens, and how long it is likely to last?

I turned to a market research tool called CivicScience(1) that is very well suited to answering these questions. CivicScience constantly runs surveys on hundreds of web sites, asking questions about products, preferences, and respondents’ backgrounds. They have compiled a database of over 300 million responses from 27 million people. I searched this database, looking for relationships between consumers’ preference for iPhone versus Android, their preferences for other products, and their demographics.

The results take the form of “over-weights” and “under-weights”. For example, the U.S. adult population is 49% male and 51% female. However, the survey data shows that adults who prefer Android (“Android people”) are 56% male and 44% female. If gender were not a factor in Android preference, 49% of Android people would be male, the same percentage that males represent in the total adult population. The actual result of 56% indicates that gender is a factor in Android preference, and the ratio of 56/49 indicates how strong a factor.  56 is 14% more than 49; in the parlance, Android people “over-weight” for male gender by 14%. Traits for which iPhone or Android users over- or under-weight reveal the characteristics of people who prefer each product.(2)

Characteristics of iPhone people versus Android people:

  • Highest level of education attained? iPhone people are more educated: they over-weight +27% for graduate/PhD education and under-weight -33% for high school education. Android people show the same pattern to a much smaller degree: +8% for graduate/PhD, -12% for high school.
  • Household income? iPhone people are more affluent: they over-weight +11% for >$75,000(3), +30% for >$100,000(3) and +48% for >$125,000(3). Android people are much less affluent but still have above average means: they over-weight for income categories above $50,000 but to a much smaller degree: +4% to +14%.
  • Age? There are no significant differences. Both iPhone people and Android people have the same age distribution as the U.S. adult population up to age 65.
  • Current occupation? iPhone people are professionals and business people; they over-weight +38% for professional/managerial and +31% for operations/sales. Many Android people are techies: they over-weight 50% for computer/technical/medical and only slightly for the two preceding categories. Both iPhone and Android under-weight for blue-collar and retired populations.
  • Do you follow technology news? Both iPhone and Android people do, but Android people do a bit more: they over-weight +35% versus +22% for Apple people.
  • Do you have a land-line phone? (Cutting the land-line cord is a good indication of early tech-trend adoption.) Both groups over-weight strongly for cutting the cord: iPhone +25% and Android +30%.
  • Are you addicted to your digital devices? Can you guess which group is more addicted? Drum roll … it’s the iPhone people with a dramatic +67% over-weight, far ahead of Android people at +39%.

And, a few to ponder:

  • How many cars do you have? Android people over-weight +20% for 3 cars, while iPhone people over-weight +11% for one car. Is iPhone more urban?
  • What kind of alcoholic beverage do you prefer? Both iPhone and Android users under-weight strongly as teetotalers, and Android users overweight +29% for hard liquor.
  • Which brand of German car would you choose? Both iPhone and Android users over-weight for Audi, and under-weight for Mercedes, by roughly similar amounts.

What This Data Says To Me

Both iPhone and Android people are affluent, educated, eager digital device consumers, and well-represented across the adult age spectrum up to 65.

Android people include more hard-core techies: they work in technical jobs and are more comfortable with the more open but less polished Android user experience. And they are less affluent, so the generally lower price of Android phones appeals to them more. Perhaps we are seeing some of the “bro-grammer” culture here: male, deeply technical, and hard-drinking.

iPhone people are a notch up the socio-economic scale: higher income, higher education, higher representation in professional and managerial jobs. They are tech enthusiasts, but more as consumers than producers: a big over-weight for digital device addiction, but none for technical jobs.

Why does Apple retain the lead in app quality? The homogeneity of the iOS platform is one big reason: it’s much harder to develop for Android due to its many software and hardware variants. This data sheds light on another big reason. iPhone is where the money is, and iPhone people are the most enthusiastic tech adopters. These two factors indicate that Apple’s app lead will persist: the problem with Android fragmentation is not going away fast [if at all], and Apple has a strong franchise with the most valuable customers.



  1. Disclosure: New Atlantic Ventures is an investor in CivicScience.
  2. The results shown above are all “statistically significant”, which means it is very likely that the patterns that show up among the people who responded to the surveys would hold up if I were able to query all U.S. adults.
  3. These are income brackets: $75,001-$100,000, $100,001-$125,000, and >$125,000.


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