Blog Post

Why are Android users less engaged than iOS users?

Android (s goog) has raced ahead of iOS (s aapl) in smartphone share but it continues to fall behind in usage and engagement in the U.S. The latest data from IBM (s ibm) on Black Friday shopping traffic underscores just how much iOS outperforms Android. Asymco has some good charts that highlight the engagement gap.

IBM said that 77 percent of mobile traffic on Black Friday came from iOS devices. This despite the fact that Comscore said that Android has 52.5 percent of smartphone subscribers while iOS has 34.3 percent. Some of it comes down to the iPad, which is still the dominant tablet and produces the most traffic compared to iPhones and Android phones. But like the iPhone, the iPad exhibits outsized usage patterns beyond its actual marketshare. Gartner said in the third quarter, iPad shipments have dropped to 50.4 percent. But IBM said it contributed 88 percent of the tablet traffic over the long weekend.

Android engagement, Asymco

This is a pattern than has been in place over the last few years. But now that Android is now the top dog on smartphones marketshare-wise and is eating into the iPad’s lead thanks to the Kindle Fire (s amzn), Nook (s bks) and other Android tablets, why is iOS still so dominant?

Here are some theories we’ve gathered from around the web alongside our thoughts:

  • Horace Dediu of Asymco wondered if Android was attracting more late adopters, who were prone to do less with their phones than hardcore smartphone users. But he’s not convinced that’s the answer. Perhaps, it has more to do with “design considerations” or “user experience flaws or integration.”
  • One thought is that Android users are more apt to want things for free, so they’re not as likely to shop for things on their devices. We’ve seen a gap in how Android and iOS users are willing to pay for apps — Android users prefer free apps — but that difference is going down over time.
  • Some Android users are just graduating up from a feature phone and really don’t understand all they can do with their device. Considering the declining number of feature phone options, it’s possible that people are graduating to cheap Android devices, but just still talk and text on them, something Daring Fireball’s John Gruber mentioned before. 
  • Tim Windsor from Digitally Speaking goes a step further, saying that most iOS buyers are specifically buying their devices for the features they can access, while most Android users are just buying what’s available to them. Most, he believes, aren’t interested in serious computing power.
  • Jason Grisby of Cloud Four recently wrote that the gap doesn’t exist when looking at web traffic over cellular. It’s only when you examine iOS and Android traffic over Wi-Fi that a usage gap emerges. He believes that Android users might not be aware of the availability of Wi-Fi networks through their device or are in lower income brackets and have less access to Wi-Fi networks.
  • Some people believe there is no gap at the high end when looking top Android devices. The problem is with cheaper and older Android devices, which don’t provide as good an experience or are saddled with older versions of Android, which are worse at browsing. It is true there are more cheap Android phones options available, so that might contribute to some of the gap. And a majority of Android users are still on devices running Android 2.0x.
  • Apple users are more likely to use apps, which can provide a better user experience. Android users who turn to a browser may not find it as inviting or engaging.
  • It’s also possible that shopping data is not an accurate proxy for engagement. NetMarketShare earlier this year said, however, also came up with general browsing data that showed iOS devices have 65 percent of mobile traffic compared to 20 percent for Android.

To be clear, the data we’re looking at is from the U.S. only, and it’s based primarily on shopping traffic. My theory is that there are people who walk into a cellular store, see only a handful of feature phones available and a salesperson who is heavily pushing Android devices. If they want to walk out with a new phone, it’s likely going to be an Android unless they came in already looking for an iPhone. Those people may not be savvy now, but they will get more experienced over time. What are your theories on this Android paradox?

92 Responses to “Why are Android users less engaged than iOS users?”

  1. From my personal experience coming from a RAZR Maxx (which I loved) and a Nexus 7 to an iPhone 5 and and iPad 4. I’ve seen a great amount of changes in my habits. I really can’t place my fingers on exactly why But, I find that if I want to look something up or read an article the first thing I gravitate for is my iPad. The screen size is big enough to where I do not have to bring the device a couple of inches from my face. But, it is small enough to where I can fold the cover and carry it around as a notebook (a real paper notebook). What I hated about the nexus 7 was the fact that I did not find it that much bigger than the screen already on the RAZR Maxx. Sure it’s portable and small, but the amount of space was not that much MORE than what was already available on the phone itself. As a techy their really are no visible advantages of an iPhone over an Android. The only thing I can say is the experience of using the device. Things on iOS seem to be a lot smoother and crisp. The programs on Android usually feel rough around the edges and unfinished. It is true that iOS is less customizable than Android. But, if I’m trying to find directions somewhere. The advantages of having to simply slide my finger across and having the icon for Maps right there is a lot quicker than having to unlock my Android, click the app drawer, look for the app (which are always changing do to Android organizing apps in alphabetical order) and then finally open it. Another thing I love about iOS which was not available on Android is the ability to glance at your home screen and see what you have to take care of. Not only do you have the notifications in notification center or on your lock screen if you have any notifications pop up while it’s locked. But, you also get the notification badges over every single app. I don’t have to swipe down to see all I have to do. Everything is simply their at a glance. Granted some may argue that Widgets could easily fix this problem. But, most widgets either have a interval time in which they update (which if you set shorter than 15 minute intervals kills your battery) and many of them you have to physically click the refresh button either on the corner or at the bottom. Even though I love android for it’s customizable interface. I find that I am more productive between school and work with my iOS devices vs my Android devices. Another big plus I have to add is the keyboard available on both my iPhone and iPad. This is by far one of the most annoying things for me on Android. When I purchase things I like to see how they’ll help me be more efficient, faster, and productive. I feel as if the keyboards on Androids tend to be very cluttered, unorganized, and they tend to give me a clastophoic feel on the layouts. The only one that came close to pleasing me with this is the new Jelly Bean keyboard. This was do to it’s simplicity and the ability to swipe (I hate the standard SWYPE keyboard do to it being very cluttered with symbols over the letters). But, without swyping and typing away the phone really doesn’t correct the words. It’ll give me suggestions on what it thinks I meant to type. With the iPhone I can literally text a full text message without looking at the screen. Even if I don’t hit the correct keys. It is very accurate at predicting which words I meant to type and it changes them automatically. Now, if I can text without looking. This only amplifies the speed in which I can text and type while I AM looking at the screen. Another big thing is the camera on the iPhone and iPad. This goes along with the camera app itself. This goes back to simplicity. When you take a picture for example. You see the image you snapped slide into the photo album in the corner. Verifying that you took the picture. One of the problems with my RAZR was the fact that you’d take the picture. But, if the volume was off. You really couldn’t tell if the picture was taken successfully. You’d have to open the album (which was filled with glitches and choppiness) and than go back to the camera and take another picture or video. It’s basically small and very direct details such as this that make me enjoy iOS a lot more than Android.

  2. Has anyone considered that many of us android users are real computer users? We chose android because it is not the dumbed-down OS with little customization that you get with android or windows devices. At the same time, we’re also probably a lot more comfortable using our laptop and desktop machines and we choose to use them over tiny screen devices that require touching the screen to type.

  3. The other reason is, with the open source goodness of android, a lot of users are using custom ROMs (Android Operating Systems) these may or may not be based on the Android OS opensource.
    Majority of users now-a-days prefer the possibility of complete customization. An iOS on any device looks and feels the same, no individuality. that can be great for some people who like to be in a flock .
    for those who prefer making their mobile device their OWN, go for the smorgasbord of customization options available only with open source projects.
    iOS usage seems higher as there is a single thread which you could pull and get all iOS users in line.
    On the other hand, due to the diversity and customization offered by Android, it gets difficult to get an idea of the actual number of users as they may be using custom roms and browsers that you wouldn’t be able to track.

  4. Like everyone here, my opinion is based on anecdotal experience… But people in my circle who are not technically savvy end up graduating to an android phone from the cheap flip phones. They have no idea of the potential on the phones. Meanwhile, my neighbor is a Mac fan (fanatic). Basically he should be paid by apple, I have watched him walk up and down the street this past weekend showing everyone whether they cared or not how he could turn on his Christmas lights using his iPhone…

    • Tech savvy does not mean being able to remotely control any equipment with a radio device.
      DO you think iOS will allow users to make a most used app like Skype for eg. be incorporated into the default apps that come with the OS?
      Android does.
      Thats what I call Tech Savvy. Being able to use and customize your device to your needs.

      As far as graduating from cheap flip phones is concerned, feature packed is what consumers prefer. on an Android, you can have ALL the functionality of the iOS and more, all as opensource, community developed projects. why would you pay for something like that when you can get it free?

  5. This is really amazing statistics which clearly shows that • Low resolution and small screen where you have to squint to see what is written
    • Pathetic battery life while browsing on 3G
    • Exceedingly tough , low quality interaction for browsing .
    • If it’s a touch phone then whatever you want your touch to do will not be done but something else will happen .
    • Lagging , Jerky , inconsistent , frustrating touch response .
    • If you have a physical keypad based 3G phone then its even pathetic experience. (Ask RIM Blackberry which was leader 4 yrs ago and check out the video of Jobs presenting the iPhone 1st time). You just cannot have millions of people browsing net and use 3G to its capacity on a keypad based phone in a trouble free way. You need touch screen phones for 3G browsing Period.
    • Blackberry even 5 years from iPhone introduction has a pathetic browsing experience on its phones (and it reflects in the share price of it which has fallen 90% over last 5 years since iPhone was introduced and also its market share).

    Market share comparisons between iOS devices and android should not be done directly because every iOS device is premium while there are such low cost and cheap android phones that any comparison is wrong . The cheapest iPhone is iPhone 4. Suppose the only cheapest android was Samsung GalaxyS (both released around same time) then the comparisons would have been more matching for browser usage .

    But an iPhone 4 browsing is vastly superior to those of $200 and below android phones by any stretch of imagination .
    Most people posting here who have android would invariably have a higher end android . Hence they cannot imagine how pathetic the experience is on cheap small screen android phones and hence people use them as feature phones with camera , music and occasional email check . Thats it.

    This kind of browser share anomaly will keep remaining always until either of two things happen :
    1. apple starts to produce crap low quality iphones
    2. People compare iphones with only the top and upper mid end androids while comparing the browser market share .

  6. Edward Pearson

    It largely boils down to user experience, an area where apple excels. I despise Apples way of doing business and especially resent having to use their kit but thus far I can find nothing more stable and thoughtfully crafted.

  7. I hope Android folks know that while 5 yr olds can use and iProduct(which is actually a plus lol), there are also super geeks – like avid Andriod users – in the iOS market… its called Jailbreak with widgets and the whole 9 yards

  8. My Theory.. is simple..

    More female using iOs(iPhones,iPads) then male. XD
    Someone got a statistic on how many female/male are iPhone/iPad owners?

    It´s like if you go into a shopping mall. 70% of the goods and shop´s are for females. or?

  9. lol at the article, err the most obvious reason is Android users prefer using desktop/laptop to shop, this article talks like desktop/laptop doesn’t even exist… desktop/laptop(with mouse) is still king when it comes to web browsing, mobile devices can’t compare

  10. Thank you for an interestinv read Om. Two points to make here

    I own both an iphone4 an ipad and a samsung galaxy note2 and I work in tech. iphones have the benefit of the early entrants. But this is about to change in part becahse samsung and google are actually innovating. The note2 is an iphone/ipad killer and the price point will attract an audience that can afford apple but finds a smarter value in a different form factor plus the savings/weight of one vs 2 devices.

    The second reason may be plagform specific. Apple and google bave different business models. I like the tigbt privacy settings in ios. Android does not seem to offer these in the new os and likely because the real value of free is in the advertisjng revenues. So this is like comparing aplles and oranges. The value prop for a developer is the probabiligy of having a major hit vs creating multiple revenue streams thru ads while hunting 4 tbat millikn dollar app. For me as a user I find most equivalent apps in either os -not to discount kindle marketplace or the purchases on that platform.

  11. Most of my “from the Internet” friends and I opt for Android. We are in our lower 20s through mid-30s, college-educated, Bay Area, progressive, mostly employed. I in my own example resonate with the second point, that Android users want free or cheap things. My friends and I ascribe to a free and open Internet culture, and are choosy about where we throw our money. Analyses that measure user “savvy” according to purchasing practices are biased in favor of consumer capitalist cultural practices.

  12. Most of my developer and “from the Internet” friends and I opt for Android. We are in our lower 20s through mid-30s, college-educated, Bay Area, progressive, mostly employed. I in my own example resonate with the second point, that Android users want free or cheap things. My friends and I ascribe to a free and open Internet culture, and are choosy about where we throw our money. Analyses that measure user “savvy” according to purchasing practices are biased in favor of consumer capitalist cultural practices.