I love this time of year, a few months after Apple's new phone release. I particularly enjoy the prime release years when the Apple handsets are different enough that you can tell at a glance if a passerby has an old or new iPhone. But even on the S years, you can learn a lot if you people watch.
I live in the greater DC area, which is one of the most affluent areas in the United States and compares favorably with affluent regions in the rest of the world. What do I see when I watch people?
I see devices. Several years ago, I started looking for devices when in public. Around this time of year, I pay special attention to smartphones. Analysts love data,and they love to look at data to support their respective views that Android or Apple are one top. But I think people tell the real story. Apple has made it clear from the beginning that they are not targeting the low end of the smartphone market. So what phones do the residents of the Greater DC area use?
I was recently browsing at Tyson's Corner, one of the upscale malls in the region. While my husband glanced at store windows, I was watching for phones.
Apple makes it easy. Their phones stand out, especially the 6 and 6+ series. Last year, when the 6 series was released, I was surprised to see how many people replaced their 5s and how quickly. What surprised me even more was how many 6+ phones I saw during my travels. I had been convinced the 6+ would flop. (Ironic now since it's probably going to be my next phone.)
During my recent trip to Tyson's Corner, I saw only iPhones, and the vast majority of them were in the 6 series. That's right. I saw so few Android phones, of any brand or variety, that they didn't even hit my radar screen. I'm sure some people had them. But not enough to notice.
Before you say that clearly I'm an iPhone user and so have a visual bias, let me note that I currently own an Android phone, an HTC One M8, which, yes, I'll be replacing next year with an iPhone, but right now, I'm an Android user and so should have a visual bias for Androids. Trust me, when I see an HTC in the wild, I take notice. Sadly, it doesn't happen very often.
It's obvious from walking that particular mall that the iPhone has won that segment of the DC-based population. Since I started noticing phones (around the time of the iPhone 4), my observations in that particular mall have not changed.
I was also on the Metro recently and paid attention to phones. Metro attracts a wider segment of the population than Tyson's Corner Mall, and I wasn't surprised to see more Android phones on the Metro. Still, I have to say that iPhones still won in terms of sheer numbers seen. One thing I noticed was more older iPhones on the Metro. Apparently Metro riders don't feel compelled to upgrade as often.
There is one place where I see a lot of Android phones, though still not in the numbers I see of Android: Starbucks. I do see a fair number of Android phones there, usually Samsungs. Perhaps Android users take their phones out of their pockets less often than Apple users, so I tend to see them when their users are seated and browsing on them? (Side note. I am truly appalled at how much time people spend on Facebook.)
What conclusions do I draw from my admittedly unscientific study? Apple's targeting strategy is still working. Their one attempt to penetrate the lower-end phone market with the 5C failed, and they do best when they stick to the market they originally targeted with the iPhone: the mid-to-upper end smartphone market. While I'm sure the typical Tyson's shopper is more than willing to waste money, they also find enough value in the iPhone to upgrade to the next one, year after year.
So what about where you live? Do you see more Androids or Apples?
image by Aimee Custis