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What Your Smartphone Says About You

Do you prefer wine or beer?  Just show us your smartphone, and we’ll probably know the answer. Consider yourself religious, or not? Blue collar or white collar? The difference in response may also be  as close as your pocket or purse.

Battery Ventures recently conducted an online survey to discern whether the common stereotypes surrounding iPhone and Android users —mainly, that iPhone devotees are elitists by association while Android users are “red state” conservatives – hold true.  Our findings might surprise you.

While iPhone users do prefer wine to beer, and Android users more commonly identify as religious and blue collar, for example, iPhone users are also just as likely to watch Fox News and own guns as their Android counterparts, statistically speaking. (Our survey, while rudimentary, was constructed to  minimize selection bias  by ensuring our 335-respondent sample closely mirrored the overall demographics of the U.S. population in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, income, and region, based on the most recent  census.)

But this is more than just cocktail chatter. These similarities, and differences, represent actionable intelligence to which all marketers should pay close attention. With billions of dollars being spent today on mobile advertising, any company buying mobile traffic without segmenting their audiences by device could be missing out on major opportunities to improve their return on investment.

The numbers are huge:  In 2013, marketers spent $13.4 billion on mobile ads, some 13% of all Internet ad spend and 2.7% of all the money spent on advertising globally. By 2016 that number is projected to rise to $45 billion, or 28% of Internet ad spend and 7.6% of total ad investments.[1]

Facebook’s ad platform currently makes these smartphone-targeting choices explicit to advertisers (Figure 1). Other publishers allow buyers to opt for different mobile sub-audiences behind the scenes. To examine some of the underlying differences in smartphone users in more detail, we conducted our original survey to get a current portrait of users by device. Working with a market research vendor, we posed a short battery of questions to smartphone owners on both platforms.  We then looked for statistically meaningful differences among the hundreds of respondents.  Let’s explore a few questions with particular relevance to large advertisers.

Figure 1 


Have you flown on an airplane in the last year?

Travel-category advertisers take note – vacationers on the Android platform may not have to put their device in airplane mode en route to their final destination.  While airfare is the low-margin gateway to more profitable hotel, car rental, and other services for online travel agencies, iPhone owners are more likely to have flown in the past year, and might represent better prospects for travel advertising (absent other targeting criteria).

Do you use public transportation exclusively?

While still representing a minority of the U.S. population, Android owners are 47% more likely to use public transportation exclusively.  Automotive is a huge ad buyer across all media, so car companies  and their agencies likely don’t want to be overpaying for Buick and Lexus ads served up to audiences primarily traveling on buses and trains.

Do you have any investments in the stock market?

Are you a company asking people to roll over their IRAs, or consider saving money when they trade stocks? More than half of those surveyed on the iPhone platform have investments in the stock market, versus less than half for Android.  As one might expect, the difference narrows and becomes less statistically noticeable when you control for household income.  In fact, at $75K+ household income there were more Android users in our sample who held stock market investments than their Apple counterparts, although statistically speaking there was no difference.

Have you eaten McDonalds in the past month?

We are all loving it – the percentage of our sample that had eaten at McDonalds in the past month represented a landslide any presidential candidate would crave (80% of our entire sample) But Droid owners were certainly more likely to opt for the golden arches come mealtime, a finding advertisers competing for fast-food dollars should take into account. Breakfast at Taco Bell might be something anyone with a smartphone needs to know about, but Droid users might be more likely to act upon it, since they showed a  10 percentage-point preference over Apple users (95% statistical significance).

These provocations should be taken with a grain of salt (I didn’t ask whether iPhone or Android users are more likely to salt their food, but perhaps next time). But hopefully they can inform some hypotheses for your next mobile marketing campaign.  Knowing that pronounced differences may exist between consumers using different devices, there’s certainly no reason smartphones should lead to dumb ads.


[1] http://techcrunch.com/2014/04/07/internet-ad-spend-to-reach-121b-in-2014-23-of-537b-total-ad-spend-ad-tech-gives-display-a-boost-over-search/

Jonathan Sills

Jonathan is an executive in residence in Battery’s Menlo Park office. He advises Battery's portfolio companies on marketing strategy.

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