Are Android Users from Mars, iOS Users from Venus?
CIO.com blogger James A. Martin looked at the most popular free and paid apps in the Android and iOS app stores and noticed some telling differences. But are Android users really that different from iOS users?
Are Android users more practical than iOS device owners?
If you compare the top 10 free apps in the Google Play store to the same list in Apple’s iTunes, you can’t help but see differences between the two smartphone camps.
Of the top 10 free apps in the Google Play store right now, six are by Google, including Gmail, Street View on Google Maps, YouTube, and Voice Search. The other apps: Facebook for Android, Adobe Flash Player 11, Pandora and Instagram. All told, the bulk of these apps add functionality to Android devices. None are games.
On the other hand, half of the iTunes Top 10 free apps are games, including Mega Run, Hide the Fart and Subway Surfers. Apps like Hide the Fart do not add important functionality to iPhones—unless increasing flatulence is on your to-do list. (If so, would you mind standing over there?)
The other half of the top free apps on iTunes is composed of Socialcam, Snapseed and Instagram (video & photo enhancing apps) and two entertainment apps, I’d Cap That (which adds crude but often funny captions to pictures) and Palm Reading Booth.
Before I jump to any conclusions, let’s dig a little deeper to see which free apps currently occupy slots 11 to 20 in both app stores.
In the Google Play store, three of the free apps from 11 to 20 are games—two of which are Angry Birds titles. In iTunes, seven apps in the slots 11 through 20 are games and two are flashlight utilities.
And what about the paid apps? In the Google Play store’s top 20, 11 are games. By comparison, the top 20 iTunes App Store paid apps include 12 games.
So let’s recap. Out of the top 20 free and top 20 paid Google Play store apps, a total of 14 are games, compared to a total of 24 for iOS.
Based on this evidence, you might think Android users are more serious and practical than iOS users. But several factors are at work here (or should I say “play”?).
One is that more games are developed for iOS than Android. Also, iOS games are, on average, simply better than those for Android. I realize that’s a big, fat, sweeping, subjective statement, but I don’t think I’m too far out of line making it. And so, if better games are available for iOS and there are more of them available, it only makes sense that games comprise a fair chunk of space on the iTunes App Store’s most popular lists.
Another possible factor: The Android OS, because it’s not the walled garden that Apple’s iOS is, often appeals to those who love tinkering under the hood. That’s why the top 20 list of paid Android apps includes device utilities such as Titanium Backup PRO Key, ROM Manager, and Root Explorer. To a degree, these apps, while practical, can also be pastimes of a different sort for tinkerers.
Much has been written about the computing world’s “religious wars.” The old Apple vs. Microsoft hostilities have morphed, in recent years, to Apple vs. Google in the mobile device arena. This was never more blatant than in the days after Instagram, previously an iOS-only app, was released for Android. CIO.com Senior Editor Al Sacco summed up some of the funny but elitist anti-Android tweets that resulted, such as this one: #instagram went from a gated community to section 8 housing all in one day.
So what does all this mean? Are iPhone users game-playing snobs? Are Android owners geeky but practical?
Ultimately, you’ll only get into trouble making generalities about any group, whether they’re Android phone owners or iOS devotees. But as someone who owns devices on both platforms, I will say this: When I want to be entertained, I’m much more likely to pick up my iPhone or iPad. When I want a bigger smartphone screen or I feel a tinkering urge coming on, I turn to my Android phone. And apparently, I’m not alone in this.
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.