What The Heck Do They Do With All Those Android Devices?

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Everyone knows that Android has all the market share in smartphones and has achieved near parity or parity with Apple's iPad in tablets, but I want to know what the heck people are doing with those devices. Every single data point that I've seen shows again and again that at the very least Apple's iOS devices have a massively disproportionate share of use.

For instance, Apple's iPad accounted for 88.3 percent of tablet devices used to make online purchases on Black Friday. That's according to IBM, which also said that iPhone accounted for 8.7 percent of online purchases compared to Android's 5.5 percent.

Clearly Android devices aren't being used to do much shopping.

Another data point is comScore's reports on subscriber share show Apple with an ever-increasing share of smartphone subscribers in the U.S. This share continues to grow quarter after quarter. In March, comScore said that Apple had 37.8 percent share, a gain of 3.5 points and much higher than Apple's share of sales.

Certainly Android devices are being used to make phone calls, but they seem to have a very short lifespan compared to iOS devices.

In January, Chitika reported that iPad had 78.86 percent of tablet-based Internet traffic. Clearly Android tablets aren't being used to surf the Web.

Last year Nielsen found that iOS users had an average of 41 apps installed on their devices compared to 32 for Android users. Android owners aren't known for paying for apps either. Clearly Android owners aren't as app-happy as iOS.

On Friday, airline Wi-Fi provider Gogo released an infographic (included below) breaking down device use up in the air. That's what sparked me to write this mini-rant, because guess what? iOS devices account for 84 percent of their business.

84 percent.

Looking at just "mobile phones," iPhone owners account for 73 percent of smartphones buying time with the company.

What the heck are Android device owners actually doing with their Android devices? Clearly they aren't surfing the Internet on airplanes.

Gogo's data is limited to customers willing to pay up for a connection through the company's service, so maybe it would be more to fair to say that Android owners aren't willing to pay for access. As noted above, however, every piece of data I've seen shows that they just aren't interested in using their devices for much of anything.

Why is that? For tablets, I've long maintained that the experience is the killer app for tablets. With very few native apps for Android tablets, the experience isn't there. People buy the tablets, especially Amazon's Kindle device, and find there's not much they can—or want to—do with it.

If that wasn't the case, Apple's tablet share would be far less than the 50 percent the company has maintained with its higher-priced iPad product line.

For smartphones, much of Android's market share is derived from cheap devices with cheap screens and cheap components being bought by the low end of the market. Not only are these customers less plugged in by definition—the high end of the Android market is buying the really nice devices like the Samsung GS3 and Note II—the cheap devices have a short life expectancy before they're tossed. There is no secondary market for the cheap devices.

If you're an Android user who uses their device for all kinds of things, I'm not talking about you. I know there are plenty of people working the heck out of their Android devices. In fact, I recently went on record as saying that Google Now could be a real game changer in the smart device market.

This piece is not an effort to say that Android devices can't do anything, but the numbers don't lie. Most Android owners don't do much with their device once they get it, and I would really like to know why.

Here's Gogo's infographic:

Gogo Infographic

Source: Gogo

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“What The Heck Do They Do With All Those Android Devices?”

Return them?


It could just be that iPad users are more likely to resort to their iPad for internet tasks whereas Android users are not. Many of the Android devices are not as high quality and so do not come across as laptop replacements. That can contribute to their users turning to them less often.

Also, do these numbers account for internet services accessed via apps? Generally web browsing stats come from the browser’s reported user agent. It could be possible, although I doubt this is the case, that Android users access internet content more via apps then iOS users. (E.g. using the Twitter and Facebook apps vs browser.) The one number mentioned above related to this is that Android users have on average fewer apps than iOS users.

Lee Dronick

A number of my FaceBook friends use them for that social service.


Well, the issue with market share has to do with number of units shipped, not sold to customers. What appears to be the case is that people are buying iPads as fast as Apple can make them and actually using them. However, with Android there are so many different device makes and models that the market is flooded with devices and a lot of them never reach consumer’s hands. Old models are returned to the OEMs and new models are constantly being sent out to replace them.

Paul Goodwin

“For instance, Apple’s iPad accounted for 88.3 percent of tablet devices used to make online purchases on Black Friday.”

That’s pretty phenomenal.

I hit the perfect storm starting in 2010. I retired and in 2011 got an iPad. It’s a perfect shopping tool. I’ve shopped more since I got this iPad than I have in the past probably 40 years. Mostly electronic stuff, browsing music stores. You can spend hours researching and comparing, and do it virtually anywhere quickly without the hassle of moving a laptop.

Perhaps it’s just that people opting for the cheaper Android things just don’t have the income and purchasing power. Not to be snobby, just that’s the world. Heck, I was broke until I was 35 or so.


My buddies old phone died so he decided to get an Android smartphone. It had a big screen and a camera and it was cheap. His data plan is 10MB a month. He uses it to text, call and take pictures. That’s it. I feel he’s not the only one using Android this way.


10mb data plan? I prob used more reading this artical and typing this message lol.

Dael Ra

It’s probably because the datapoints you’re looking at only track online usage for apps that have at least an iOS version.

I’ve got an Android phone and tablet and most of my apps are productivity apps and for entertainment, it’s mostly iBooks and audiobooks. I can’t be bothered to do the social thing 24/7 and much prefer to spend an hour or so an evening on a proper desktop machine for that sort of thing. There’s simply no need to be online with it all day. When I take a photo on it, I prefer to check them on my desktop before posting online. The photos are automatically transferred to my my desktop as soon as I’m in range of my home wifi signal so my phone is never the device uploading my photos to Facebook/G+/wherever once they’ve been sorted/edited.

If there’s a choice, it has to be a pretty spectacular app for me to prefer it over a web site equivalent. News websites for instance are far more comprehensive than their app versions so more often than not, I see no point of those apps that do nothing more than tidy up a website.

However, I believe the seeming disparity of online use between Android and iOS users is simply because the analytics companies you’re looking at are missing the android users. It could simply be that most Android devs don’t use analytics companies to analyse their usage or use ones specific to Android. Some datapoints come from cross development tools but these usually favour iOS first so it’s entirely possible that the Android devs don’t use those tools as much as iOS users do muddying the stats even more.

For example, has anyone seen the usage stats for Google Maps, Google Talk or any of the other built in Google apps? I use Google maps a lot, not just for directions but for streetview and finding local shops, all of which is totally missed off the typical usage analysis stats that get released by Flurry or whoever. Also Google Analytics does a great job of doing your own products stats but none of that ends up being public.

Whilst I think ‘most’ Android users are actually on high end models (Show me the stats to prove otherwise. I base my assumption on the fact that 4 out of the top 5 best sellers are nearly always the high end models.), if all you do want is a phone/ sms/ email/ webbrowser/ mediaplayer/ camera then you don’t need to pay a fortune to get one.

Just because you don’t use the Internet, it doesn’t mean you’re not using your phone.


I have over 90 apps on my iPhone. I am WAY above average.


I can only speak for myself, but I have around 5 Android devices. so…

I keep them mostly in a drawers and try some stuff occasionally.
I get sucked in once in a while by the excitement of hot new hardware (Nexus 7 or HTC One.) And then invariably I get tired of the clunkiness and ... “uncoorperativeness” of the Android hardware. It’s just urgh. I always hear it’s gotten better, and from guys like Ihnatko or Kawasaki. But it never really is. Typically, I’ve paid for two movies which won’t play on *any* of my devices! (I’m in UK.)
I really love the 5-inch Galaxy Note (for pocket-ereader), and I’d love for something like that running iOS!

One thing I like: text to speech!! Why can’t we have that on iOS?? My Kindle Fire HD can read books aloud to me, and even web articles via Pocket. I love that.


All android household. Will say my primary use is for cycling apps and GPS. When web browsing i am using Dolphin set to Desktop profile, so I am probably not getting picked up as android. I hate the mobile sites. The device handles the full site fine.

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