The Android engagement paradox

“IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark reported US Black Friday sales and the news is reasonably good. Overall online sales grew by 17.4% while mobile grew to make up 24% of traffic.,” Horace Dediu writes for Asymco. “Of the 24% of traffic made up by mobile devices, phones contributed 13% and tablets 11% (or 54% and 46% of mobile respectively). Of the phone traffic, iOS devices were about two thirds of traffic and Android one third. Of tablet traffic, iPad was 88%, Kindle and Nook were 5.5% Galaxy Tab was 1.8% and other tablets were 4.4%. Overall, iOS was 77% generated mobile traffic and Android (excl. Kindle, Nook) was 23%.”

“Android went from 1.43% of Black Friday shopping traffic in 2010 to 4.92% in 2012. In same time iOS went from 3.85% to 18.46%. In other words, while Android is up by a factor of 3.4, iOS is up by a factor of 4.8,” Dediu writes. “The iPad is now the predominant mobile shopping device.”

“This I consider to be a paradox: Why is Android attracting late adopters (or at least late adopter behavior) when the market is still emergent? We’ve become accustomed to thinking that platforms that look similar are used in a similar fashion. But this is clearly not the case,” Dediu writes. “The shopping data is only one proxy but there are others: developers and publishers have been reporting distinct differences in consumption on iOS vs. Android and, although anecdotal, the examples continue to pile up. And engagement is not a frivolous platform attribute. It is highly causal to success because it correlates with all cash flows associated with ecosystem value creation. Especially when a platform like Android depends more on engagement than ‘monetizing hardware.'”

Dediu writes, “I’m not satisfied with the explanation that Android users are demographically different because the Android user pool is now so vast and because the most popular devices are not exactly cheap. There is something else at play. It might be explained by design considerations or by user experience flaws or integration but something is different.”

Much more, including the usual excellent charts, in the full article – recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s the marketing, stupid.

Android is pushed to users who are, in general:

a) confused about why they should be choosing an iPhone over an inferior knockoff and therefore might be less prone to understand/explore their devices’ capabilities or trust their devices with credit card info for shopping; and/or
b) enticed with “Buy One Get One Free,” “Buy One, Get Two or More Free,” or similar ($100 Gift Cards with Purchase) offers.

Neither type of customer is the cream of the crop when it comes to successful engagement or coveted demographics; closer to the bottom of the barrel than the top, in fact. Android can be widespread and still demographically inferior precisely because of the way in which and to whom Android devices are marketed. Unending BOGO promos attract a seemingly unending stream of cheapskate freetards just as inane, pointless TV commercials about robots or blasting holes in concrete walls attract meatheads and dullards, not exactly the best demographics unless you’re peddling muscle building powders or grease monkey overalls.

Google made a crucial mistake: They gave away Android to “partners” who pushed and continue to push the product into the hands of the exact opposite type of user that Google needs for Android to truly thrive. Hence, Android is a backwater of second-rate, or worse, app versions that are only downloaded when free or ad-supported – but the Android user is notoriously cheap, so the ads don’t sell for much because they don’t work very well. You’d have guessed that Google would have understood this, but you’d have guessed wrong. Google built a platform that depends heavily on advertising support, but sold it to the very type of customer who’s the least likely to patronize ads.

iOS users are the ones who buy apps, so developers focus on iOS users. iOS users buy products, so accessory makers focus on iOS users. iOS users have money and the proven will to spend it, so vehicle makers focus on iOS users. Etcetera. Android can have the Hee Haw demographic. Apple doesn’t want it or need it; it’s far more trouble than it’s worth.

Related articles:
People buy more Android phone units and do less with them vs. Apple’s revolutionary iPhone – November 14, 2012
Study: iPhone users vastly outspent Android users on apps, respond much better to ads – August 20, 2012
Apple utterly dominates mobile device market with 6% market share – and 77% of the profits – August 6, 2012
Game over, Android: Apple owns 84% of mobile gaming revenue – May 7, 2012
Wealthy smartphone users more likely to have iPhones; less likely to play games, tweet – April 2, 2012
U.S. Apple product users split evenly between Republicans and Democrats; Half of U.S. households own at least one Apple product – March 28, 2012
Study: iPad users more likely to buy – and buy more – online than traditional PC users – September 29, 2011
Apple iPhone users most open to mobile payments – August 22, 2011
iPhone users smarter, richer, less conservative than Android phone users – August 16, 2011
Apple iPhone users spend significantly more on their credit cards than non-iPhone users – November 5, 2010
Study: Apple iPhone users richer, younger, more productive than other so-called ‘smartphone’ users – June 12, 2009
Nielsen: Mac users are better educated and make more money than PC users – July 12, 2002


  1. What’s interesting about googs android is that it’s open source which means it’s easily reskinned ( example kindle os ) which is probably it’s major weekness.

    Maybe in the future well see

    Kindle os , facebook os, Twitter os, samsung os!!! , all Android ( reskinned ) but not really android.


  2. I would say it’s a matter of trust and age demographics. Android is notorious for malware and the since Android users skew younger, I think their shopping habbits and disposible income differ. That’s my guess.

  3. By its very nature, Android is meant to be fragmented. Google doesn’t care. They make money off their core search products and could care less where they came from. Android will always be fragmented. Android will always be the market leader (unless one factors in the flavor of Android being run).

    Are iOS users more engaged? Probably. Is Android vulnerable to eroding market share? Not currently. Will iOS falter in the face of increased competition? Yes.

    Will Apple remain profitable in the face of all of this? Probably.

    1. I’m not sure Google is making enough on clicks to be content to subsidize Samsung (who already has the advantage of being their own parts supplier, and having sluggish, competition-favoring courts allow them to steal Apple’s interface). What puzzles me is whatever Google’s strategy was. They gain a few searches but others make big money on Freedroid, which Google developed at great cost. Is it too late to go to the microsoft model, or at least charge for android? What must Goog’s shareholders think about this?

  4. When I travel through depressed neighbourhoods, I frequently see cheque cashing places. On Android devices, I would guess that a very popular app would be a cheque cashing place locator service and perhaps a very very lite financial tracker to remember how much they owe.

  5. Android is NOT a phone brand!

    Google attempted to emulate MS Windows, but Google didn’t charge for Android, thinking they would make it up on ad $s.

    Don’t think it is working for Google.

  6. The difference is that many Android users set out to buy a phone that does some stuff on the side.

    iOS users set out to buy a competent mobile computer that may also be a phone.

    When you’ve got to dig through a couple of menus to get to the web, and then web experience is jittery/sloppy/insert your own, then people just don’t use it all that much.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been around friends with Android devices who tell me, “My phone does that, too, I just don’t use it.”

    1. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been around friends with Android devices who tell me, “My phone does that, too, I just don’t use it.”

      I hear same thing so one day I challenged two Andiod users to Face Time …… It was funny, they finally got hooked up and then had to wait after each talked, it was kinda like a walkie talkie for face time ….. I laughed and then wife and I showed ours, it was great!

  7. One of the things that is rarely mentioned and skews marketshare numbers in Google’s favor is the millions upon millions of phones sold in China and other developing countries that run a forked version of Android.

    These phones are technically Android but cannot run mainstream Android apps and do not provide advertising revenue to Google. So the Android platform does not benefit in any from the sale of these phones and yet they are counted and accepted in the news without question as marketshare proof against iOS.

    Add to these the domestically forked versions of Android like Kindle and the BOGO selling campaigns and you end up with little value and diminutive web presence.

    Essentially Android is, for the most part, replacing Symbian as the default phone os for dumb phones and dumb people.

  8. I still think that Android reports of sold/shipped/activated units are flat out lies.

    I believe that usage patterns are no different from Android to iOS. Third party traffic data doesn’t lie. Effectively Apple has 60% and Android has 30% of the smart-phone market. With iPads, Apple has 80% and Android has 12%.

    Why is IBM data important here? I trust IBM to be impartial and non-biased, they have nothing to gain or loose.

  9. there is no mystery here, what is Dediu’s problem?

    very cheap Android phones are simply replacing very cheap Symbian phones, for the humdred of millions of people who don’t really need a smartphone at all, and so use very little of what they can do.


    1. It isn’t replacement.

      Horace knows that feature phones cost half of what smartphones cost, and when subsidized with multi year carrier contracts, even become free.

      Therefore, consumers are not merely in replacement mode. The cost of replacement is too high.

      The smartphone is hired to do a different job than the old feature phone. Since the behavior of Android and iOS users is so different, we wonder why that is. More data are required to escape the smog of speculation.

      1. You summarise the dilemma well. Too expensive to be replacements: yes. Smartphones are hired to do a different job: yes.
        And yet these phones are clearly being hired to do the same job the feature phone did, even thought they cost more.
        This suggests they are indeed feature phones where the ‘smartness’ is perceived as more glamorous features that justify the price increase.
        These users, therefore, appear neither to understand the true nature of ‘smart’ nor value it. They are buying really pimped feature phones, because that is what they want.

        1. That may be it. Glamour has its place in the hierarchy of needs.

          As there are multiple uses for a smartphone, there is a spectrum of users whose peak usage statistics center around different combinations of apps. The analytics have been crude, but the rough division into two camps seems consistent across multiple reports.

          It may well turn out that the iOS group are exactly those users who, more than with other platforms, value the shopping experience itself—ease of discovery and purchase, with a friendly UI, across multiple devices. The other group makes do with a crappy shopping experience or sticks to social networking and messaging.

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