Android phone sales keep climbing, but usage isn't keeping up

Credit: Family O'Abe via Flickr

There's lots of buzz today about IBM's report on the growth and source of online sales for Black Friday. Much of the focus is on how the iPad generated almost 10 percent of online shopping, which is more traffic than any other tablet or smartphone.

That makes sense. The iPad has the lion's share of the tablet market and it's easier to shop on it than a phone or PC.

But what's more interesting is a look at the smartphone numbers. Analyst Horace Dediu noticed that while Android phone sales have shot past iPhone sales, far more shopping traffic on Black Friday came from iPhones than Android phones.

Black Friday shopping is an indicator of overall usage and so shines a light on the value of Android vs. iPhones among mobile workers. If people think that shopping from their Android phone is hard, they probably think checking email or delving into a productivity app is too.

Dediu looked at ComScore's data on numbers of iPhone and Android phone users since 2010 and combined it with IBM's Black Friday shopping traffic numbers to figure the percent of traffic per device user. The result is that even while Android sales have gone up, Android usage has gone down. And iPhone usage has gone up.

What gives? Anecdotally, I'd say it's a usability issue. I switched about a year ago from an iPhone to Android (Atrix 4G). There are a few things I like better about the Atrix but overall, it just isn't as easy to use as the iPhone. And so I use it less often. So much less, that last month I used just 25 MB of my data plan.  

Some people commenting on Dediu's blog post say that in particular the low-end Android phones are harder to use, especially because many of them run old versions of the operating system and have small, low-quality screens. They say it'd be better to compare usage on the higher end Android phones to the iPhone usage. But the Atrix was a higher end Android phone and the usability issues are enough to keep me from picking it up as much as I might.

Dediu doesn't have a great answer to the question of why people don't seem to use their Android phones as much as iPhone users do (he also points to additional anecdotal evidence of that low usage from developers and publishers indicating that we're not just talking about shopping). But he notes that usage is particularly important for Google since its strategy is not to make money on device sales but on user engagement.

If you've had an iPhone and an Android phone, do you think you used one or the other more? If you have an Android phone, do you think it's hard to use?

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