iOS is the most lucrative mobile OS of them all

Credit: Jason A. Howie on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0 license.

Like the wicked queen who gazed in the mirror and begged who was the fairest of them all, Google might not like the answer it gets if it were to ask, which is the most lucrative mobile OS of them all. That's because even though Google owns mobile marketshare, its iOS users who spend the most money -- by far.

A recent analysis by IBM of holiday shopping for 2013 found that the most popular mobile OS was not the fairest of them all when it came to using those devices to spend money. IBM found that iOS users were five times more likely to spend money using their devices with 23 percent of online sales credited to iOS versus just 4.6 percent coming from Android. And  iOS users spent $93.94 per order, nearly twice that of Android users, who spent $48.10 per order, according to the report. Finally, the report stated that iOS users made up 32.6 percent of overall traffic versus 14.8 percent for Android.

All of which suggests iOS users are much more active than their Android counterparts for whatever reason.

These numbers are consistent with other studies that consumers, at least tend to use iOS devices more than their Android counterpoints. I have a friend who speculates that because people who buy iPhones tend to want smartphones and all that entails, while many people who buy lower-end Android phones don't really care. They just want an inexpensive phone and Android offers the best option available.

But do these kinds of habits translate into business. In other words, when iPhone and Android users go to work do they follow the same usage patterns? There isn't any study I'm aware of to figure this out, but I asked Jack Gold, who is principal at J. Gold Associates, who covers the mobile industry. He says that it's difficult to extrapolate consumer behavior to the enterprise because they still have work to do regardless of the device.

"Workers have tasks to accomplish, and no matter what device they use, they have to get the work done. It’s a little different for SMB where apps are less focused and directed by an IT group. But overall, if you are mobile, you have to get your work done no matter what device you use," Gold wrote me in an email.

But that said, Gold believes there are still differences between the two groups of users. "Enterprises are still wary of Android due to security concerns and the number of different versions of the OS available on devices in use. So currently you will see more enterprise support for iOS devices than for Android." But Gold added that this is very likely a temporary situation and businesses will begin to catch up and also offer Android apps over time

"Logically, if you have more iOS users than Android, that is where the efforts will start. But most companies know they will need to support Android as well and so have plans to be cross platform with their corporate apps. By the way, our research shows that about 65% of corporate mobile solutions are being driven by the end user community (line of business) and not directly by IT," he wrote me.

Gold says ultimately it's a productivity question and armed with a smartphone, regardless of the OS, employees with the same work apps are very likely going to be equally productive. At that point, it doesn't matter, but he does admit that iOS users tend to download more of their own apps.

It's unclear why this difference exists between the two user groups. A GigaOm article from 2012 tried to get at the answers, but there was no absolute reason that could pinpoint why there is such a difference.

Ultimately, whatever the reason for the gap, there probably isn't a one-to-one relationship between the IBM consumer data and what happens at work, but iOS users do tend to be more active, and it would be interesting if there were a study that got to the bottom of why that is.

Disclosure Statement: I have a paid blogging gig with IBM. That relationship had no impact on this post.

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