Apple users love their devices, Android users not so much

March 12, 2013 12:20 PM EDT

Yet more evidence proves the biggest difference between Apple [AAPL] iOS and Android users is that iPhone and iPad people actually use their devices, while the majority of Google-driven 'Droids don't seem to use them at all.

[ABOVE: Apple's latest iPhone ads picked up some interest this morning. It follows the format of the current iPad ad campaign.]

iOS users are active users

This is a significant difference between the two platforms that has been suggested by numerous surveys from online metrics and advertising networks since the platform wars began. Survey after survey suggests that despite the difference in their user populations, iPhone users are the most actively engaged in what their devices can do.

The latest data from video services firm, Ooyala, shows that iOS users spend twice as much time watching video on their devices than do Android users. That's remarkable when you consider that Android outsold iOS by three-to-one last year, according to IDC.

Why is this happening? There's numerous explanations as to why, perhaps the most convincing being that due to the highly competitive nature of the smartphone industry and the price-conscious competition between Android device vendors, many of us have ended up on that platform simply because we could get a cheaper (or even free) smartphone.

Developers want active users

That’s interesting from another point of view -- developers. Developers have long known that Apple's a far more profitable platform to develop for; while Android just doesn't deliver the same velocity of app downloads.

That's a big deal for Android because as apps become more widely adopted it's likely we'll see key services and retail destinations offering apps to reach their audience. Stop to consider this and it seems reasonable to imagine the nature of these apps will be defined by the habits of the most active users. In other words, apps will continue to debut on iOS first, because people use the apps on that platform. This also means Apple maintains the developer advantage, because its users are more active.

[ABOVE: The second latest Apple ad. Same basic format. Bit bland.]

The fact that Android devices are available at different prices and with different sets of features is great when it comes to democratising the smartphone space, ensuring utilitarian provision of these devices to the greatest possible market.

Everyone should be able to get hold of a mobile device like this, if only because an increasing number of energy utilities and local governance operations are handled via smartphone. Lack of access to these technologies threatens to create a nation within a nation of digital have-nots. This means Germany recently decided that access to the Internet constitutes a basic human right.

Market reports don't tell the story

The down side is that Android devices -- while prevalent -- are available for very cheap or free, and while the low-end devices are sold as "smart" phones, these suffer limited feature sets, high fault and return rates, and don't necessarily deliver the experience new users might expect, reducing their expectation of smartphones in general.

The disconnect between the activity and engagement levels of iOS users and their devices and the populace but not interested Android brethren suggests that existing market share analysis is skewed. There's clearly a market for low end Androids from various companies, but usage patterns, price, and feature sets are not comparable to sales of devices at the high end (which obviously includes an iPhone or some Galaxy devices).

In order to gain a more accurate understanding of user engagement patterns, it seems the market share data needs to be able to separate high end Android devices (which truly compete with iPhones) from low end ones. That exercise may be worth exploring because it would give Android developers a more accurate impression of activity levels among high end Android users, and enable a more convincing contrast between engagement levels of iPhone and other smart platforms.

Right now, however, it appears iOS users are more active, happier, and more loyal to the platform, which also offers them the lowest failure and breakage rates in the industry. iOS is also more likely to host the most exciting apps first, simply because iOS people are actively engaged. And, of course, it's more secure. Android's advantage is that it is inherently subsidized. 

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