These maps showing the locations of 280 million individual posts on Twitter show a depressing divide in America: Tweets coming from Manhattan tend to skew in favor of iPhones. Tweets coming from Newark, N.J., index more heavily from Android phones.*
This map shows dense usage of iPhones in Manhattan, but not so much in Newark, N.J.:
Here is the same map for Android, showing heavier usage in Newark of Android than iPhone:
If you live in the New York metro area, you don’t need to be told that Manhattan is where the region’s rich people live, and the poor live in Newark. Manhattan’s median income is $67,000 a year. Newark’s is $17,000, according to U.S. Census data.
The rich, it seems, use iPhones while the poor tweet from Androids.
The map was created by Mapbox, which markets beautiful mapping software. You can use it to zero in on your ZIP code and see how your neighborhood breaks down.
Even within Manhattan, the iPhone-Android divide picks out the wealthier neighborhoods from the poorer ones. Here is the split along the border of the Village (think brownstones and chic little designer stores) and Chinatown and the Lower East side (noodle joints and bodegas, plus a large public housing complex). Note how iPhone usage drops off heavily in Chinatown and the Lower East Side, but Android usage persists:
Here is San Francisco:
You can see the trendy neighborhoods in the heart of the city are dominated by iPhone. Android users are heavy in the downtown area also. But in the southern areas, less so.
The maps illustrate a debate among app developers and mobile tech execs about the apparent socioeconomic divide between users of the two largest mobile platforms in the world, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.
Here is an even more dramatic one. Everyone knows that the Miami Beach area of Florida is where the rich go to play. But check out what happens near the airport, where there are a couple of trailer parks:
Note that Miami Beach, the airport, and the roads that link them are picked out as iPhone territory—rich people can afford to fly, after all but the less desirable neighborhoods near the runways are empty of iPhone users.
Here are the Android users in the same area:
The android users are less dense around Miami Beach but can be found near the airport. More interestingly, they skew more towards roads off the main highway to the airport — including near a set of trailer parks.
“Why Don’t Designers Take Android Seriously?”
Cennydd Bowles, a U.K.-based design lead at Twitter, raised the issue recently in a thoughtful article on Medium titled, “Why Don’t Designers Take Android Seriously?” He wanted to know why app developers don’t like working for Android: “It’s likely that Android will reach a larger proportion of humanity than any comparable technology, if it hasn’t already.”
Android has about an 80 percent market share in some areas of the world. “Android is the dominant platform of the next decade. Why aren’t designers paying it more attention?” Bowles asked.
To make his point, he noted that WhatsApp’s 450 million users are mostly on Android. WhatsApp helps people save money by bypassing a phone user’s data plan in favor of free Wi-Fi. With audiences of that size, it was odd to him that app developers still regarded Android as an also-ran. He got a bunch of responses from his colleagues and readers:
The ... replies were mostly variations on the theme that Android users don’t pay for apps, they don’t have data plans, you can’t monetize them easily, and designers are all iPhone users and don’t really understand Android users.
A Socioeconomic Split Along Class Lines, in Favor of iPhone Over Android.
Note the recurring theme: Android users are less lucrative than iPhone users, and designers are iPhone users. It’s a socioeconomic split along class lines, in favor of iPhone over Android.
Mobile traffic data to e-commerce sites bears this out. Every quarter, a mobile market research company called Monetate publishes data on mobile shoppers and how much they spend online. By almost every metric, Apple users come out ahead as spenders. Here’s the data for Q4 2013:
Share of visits to e-commerce sites from tablets
- iPad: 87 percent
- Android: 11 percent
Average order value from tablets
- iPad: $155
- Android: $110
Share of visits to e-commerce sites from phones
- iPhone: 60 percent
- Android: 39 percent
Average order value from phones
- iPhone: $126
- Android: $136
Only on the phones themselves do Android users spend more.
But if you look at the dominant share of iPad as a shopping device and how much iPad users spend—$155 on 87 percent of visits—it’s almost as if Apple users do their shopping on iPad and only use their phones for the loose-change stuff.
“An Android User Is Worth One-Fourth of an iOS User.”
That “loose change,” unfortunately, is roughly the most that Android users spend, on average.
This finding has been repeated—broadly—by IBM, which monitors holiday shopping on mobile devices. From Black Friday through Christmas Day, iOS users spent $93.94 per order, nearly twice that of Android users, who spent just $48.10.
Simon Khalaf, CEO of Flurry, one of the larger mobile advertising platforms, recently told Business Insider the same thing: “We have seen and published reports that an Android user is worth one-quarter of an iOS user, but that is based on virtual goods sales (mainly games). The IBM data seems to suggest that this is almost the same ratio for sales of physical goods (m-commerce).”
The economic split between Apple and Android isn’t surprising, given that Apple generally demands $600 to $700 for an iPhone and rarely tolerates discount pricing of its newest models. The chart above shows how consistent iPhone pricing is over time.
Apple just doesn’t do discounts.
The Rise of the Super-Cheap Android
There are some fantastic high-end, high-price Android phones. But all the talk is about the cheap ones. At the recent Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, Spain—a huge mobile industry confab—the buzz was about the Chinese Android companies marketing smartphones for just $35.
In the U.K., Google’s Moto G budget Android smartphone grabbed 6 percent of the market in just three months simply because a high-quality phone for a low price appealed to poor men. The Guardian reported:
Kantar Worldpanel ComTech says that the Moto G was particularly popular with men aged 16-24 in “lower income” groups: 83% of buyers were male, and 40% have annual earnings of below £20,000.
What’s Happening in China?
Apple has recently started paying attention to the Chinese market, hoping to sell more phones there. So Chinese consumers may change their tastes. But until recently, Android dominated much of Asia. This chart from Distimo appears to show that app sales on Apple vs. Android devices are split evenly, by geography. But ...
Note that in Asia and China particularly, Android simply dominates, especially when you factor in the Chinese “Wandoujia” app store for Android. (Google Play has less traction there.) Basically, while Apple and Android split the population in the West in terms of e-commerce, most of Asia is simply Android territory. Here is the same map, with annotations that make sense of what’s happening in Asia:
There May Be Signs This Is Changing.
As the sheer size of the Android audience grows, businesses are paying more attention to it, and some Android users are behaving more like iPhone users. This chart shows that monetization of Android apps by developers is catching up to the iPhone, but Android still has a long way to go:
Bowles, the Twitter designer, wrote that he hopes the app development community will wake up and stop ignoring the largest mobile platform on earth:
I do hope, given tech’s rhetoric about changing the world and disrupting outdated hierarchies, that we don’t really think only those with revenue potential are worth our attention. A designer has a duty to be empathetic; to understand and embrace people not like him/herself. A group owning different devices to the design elite is not a valid reason to neglect their needs.
*Correction, April 8, 2014: The original version of this post did not account for a flaw in Mapbox's maps. The iPhone users are layered on top of the Android users, making Android usage appear less dense in some areas. We have deleted some of those maps and created new ones showing iPhone and Android usage separately. (Return.)