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Survey: 83% of US teens have an iPhone, Android 9% (scribd.com)
61 points by tpush on April 8, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 128 comments

As a student at a middle to upper class high school, I can say that it's definitely not about the actual features of iOS vs Android -- it's just a status symbol. People with iPhones are considered slightly "cooler", or at the very least it's more hip to have an iPhone than an Android. Apple's walled garden contributes to its dominance as well, if all your friends are using FaceTime and iMessage, there's not much that might influence someone to pick an Android phone than economic reasons. Speaking of which, the iPhone vs Android debate among teens really boils down to a thinly veiled version of classism (in my opinion). I heard a classmate respond to a question of what kind of phone she had with, "an iPhone, but it's a 6, so it's pretty much a Droid." (I'm not sure where the 2008 terminology came from, but still.)

As another student at another upper-class high school, my experience was different. 99% of people do have iphones, but no one flaunts it as a status symbol, nor do people seem to care what generation of iphone you have. Airpods are more interesting because not that many people have them; they themselves don't grant you any status, but having airpods is an _indicator_ of status.

> Speaking of which, the iPhone vs Android debate really boils down to a thinly veiled version of classism.

Or maybe people just like iPhones?

See my response to chrisseaton's comment.

Presumably you meant in your experience, the iPhone vs Android debate among less technically literate peers you've met is sometimes thinly veiled classism?

"the debate" in a general sense certainly is about the software/hardware features and architecture.

Correct, I'll make that more clear.

Maybe these people just like iPhones and it's not some big cynical setup?

Perhaps, but somebody in one of my classes had jailbroken his iPhone and was showing off his fancy home screen, which would have been pretty par for the course for a custom Android home screen, and everybody was oohing and ahhing at how cool it was. Really just anecdotal, but I don't think iPhones are more popular purely because they've considered both options and chosen the one they liked more.

But the jailbroken phone comes with iOS and the custom Android home screen doesn't. I'm not seeing your argument here, unless it's "stock iOS isn't flashy" or "jailbreaking is cool".

> But the jailbroken phone comes with iOS and the custom Android home screen doesn't.

Right, I'm saying that it's not as much about the actual features or capabilities of the phones, but just that iPhones are cooler.

Unlikely or the split would be similar in other rich western countries. It isn't, because everyone uses WhatsApp and that is available on Android.

How can something be a “status symbol” that over 50% of people have? People have been saying Apple products are status symbols since the iPod.

Can you confirm the high social status of owning AirPods? You can't even hope to have those with an Android.

AirPods work with Android. Source: just paired mine with a Pixel 3.

Huh, I did not realize that.

1977 called. They said these aren't the droids you're looking for. ;)

Which phone do you have?

An Android (Moto Z3), which I chose because I preferred it to an iPhone, and, more recently, because Android is slightly more open-source than iOS.

Thought so. And that’s why I would not give your opinion any weight.

Could you elaborate?

You are speaking about other people’s choices and assuming you know what went in to their decision. If you had written the same thing but said you had an iphone, and that is why you bought it, that would have at least a little more weight. I would have the same issue asking an iphone owner for their thoughts on why people buy android.

Nearly all owners of brand X believe it has a more favorable value proposition than brand Y. Instead of concluding that they value different things, they often assume that the majority of owners of Y products must be buying on something other than value. When someone says people only buy Apple products to look cool, that’s what they are doing.

These types of surveys are at best directionally accurate, as I doubt their 8000 teens are a representative sample. Are we to believe that 20% of teens own an Apple Watch, as this survey suggests?

They admit to focusing on middle class to high income households, so they might not be far off in those groups. Definitely not representative of the whole country though.

Maybe it's a regional thing, as the South was oddly oversampled at 45% of the 8000. I don't hang around teens but do make a point of looking at what tech they're using when I see them, and I've never seen one wearing a smartwatch of any kind. Apple Watch is just getting to the hand-me-down stage so maybe that's it.

I totally buy that Apple has a very strong brand with teens, I just don't see smartwatches as being must-haves for teens. I'd guess more teens would want to put the extra $$ into a newer smartphone (faster & with a better camera) instead of a secondary device.

Apple has sort of a lock in for teens in the US because of its imessages app from what I understand. This is something unique in North America as rest of the counties use messaging apps like whatsapp

For sure iMessage is huge in the US, and teens are at a time in their lives when social inclusion is pretty much #1 on the list of priorities. I buy that argument. It's that Apple Watch is likely only third on the list of purchases after iOS device + wireless headphones, and has much less social inclusion value, and at that point you've spent many teenagers budgets.

I teach high school English in a middle/upper middle class midwestern suburb. %20 with an Apple Watch seems high, but not outrageous. AirPods are everywhere though.

I swear my stepdaughter hates me because I gave her my old Nexus 6P. It's a sweet phone, I don't understand the issue.

I don't want to give in and buy her an iPhone, but she had tears in her eyes when I told her $800 wasn't the greatest use of funds.

Blue chat bubbles > green ones seems to be a big piece of it. You're not wrong.

As a current student this is a huge part of it.

People with androids (green messages) will not be added to group chats because it turns everyone else's messages green. When making plans they will usually get texted individually but it can unintentionally lead to exclusion.

Texting someone with an android is much less convenient than using an iPhone and anecdotally this is one reason kids choose iPhones over Android.

As a parent of teenager, it’s exactly that. Android phone messes up the iMessage group chat. So kids with Android phone tend to get excluded. Apple is obviously in no hurry to fixed issue. iMessage turn out to be the stickiest social network for the next generation.

Apple can fix it but there is nothing stopping Android from implementing something that'll make things not change color.

How would they do this? iOS controls the colors on iOS, no?

He’s not wrong but the niece isn’t wrong either. Style and being cool matter more to some people than others.

Does anyone consider the possibility that she prefers the overall iphone experience, and is not choosing it to be cool? Or are you all Android owners who don’t realize that people who prefer Apple products tend to actually like them?

It's like a kid getting upset when they don't get the porsche they wanted for their birthday but a second hand car.

Does anyone consider the possibility that she prefers the overall Porsche experience, and is not choosing it to be cool? ...

It's the same thing. She got a functioning smartphone but not the more expensive one she wanted.

It’s not like that at all. It’s not about price. Most kids who prefer iphones would take a $250 iphone SE over a $900 Samsung. Hell, I would even take that deal.

I'd take a $250 SE over a $400 android, definitely, but not over a new samsung galaxy.

Preferring an iPhone is one thing, but the "tears in your eyes" comment from OP makes me think this is 100% a status thing. Also that I remember what is was like being a teenager in the US.

Some of it is status, but I think what would trigger an emotional swell like that is the potential of being embarrassed by having a knock-off communication device--and I think Androids are viewed this way by many teenagers. And you're exposed the moment you reply to a text.

There's a great example of what its like to wear the wrong thing in Atlanta Season 2 episode 10, which centers around a Fubu t-shirt.

Actually, your comment just reminded me exactly of that feeling when I was a kid and got a Gobot for a present instead of a Transformer.

> Does anyone consider the possibility that she prefers the overall iphone experience, and is not choosing it to be cool?

Does she have experience with both platforms, to be able to prefer one over the other?

Probably, but you don’t even necessarily need to have experience with both. It’s perfectly reasonable to prefer something that is familiar or compatible.

One need look no further than asking lifelong Windows owners if they would be happy with their next computer being a Mac. They’ll likely tell you hell no, whether they have used one before or not.

Ding ding. She doesn't, I think it's a status / inclusion thing, but I'm sympathetic to that as well. I grew up poor

You're nicer than me. If I had a teenager, I wouldn't buy them a smartphone at all.

In fact, as a teenager, most of my friends had cell phones, but I didn't. And it was completely okay. When I went to college, I purchased my own cell phone and plan, which I paid for with the job I got while going to school. My family wasn't poor, my parents just didn't think I needed a cell phone, and they were right.

I'll probably get my kids a phone when they hit their teens, but it's definitely not going to be top of the line. If they want a fancy phone, they can earn it themselves. It's completely optional at that age, even if they don't think so.


I use an old SE and I love it. It does what I want a phone to do, and just works every time. For my desktop I want freedom, but on my phone I want to have a safe App Store and not spend a lot of time wondering if the app I want is malware or counterfeit or a scam. I just want it to be a working item and that’s it.

Maybe she feels the same way? No need to buy here an $800 model either, you can get really good iPhomes for a fraction of that price.

You don't have to get the latest. I got my 8 for about $200 with a new plan (no contract), and I'm sure you can get a 7 cheaper as well.

This is a joke, but the medium, the content and its massive success (660k likes two months ago!) might encapsulate why she had tears in her eyes.


> It's a sweet phone

For you.

It's a big phone.

You can used iPhone 6's on ebay for $150.

no idea if this still applies, but snapchat used to run like shit on android.

blue bubbles vs green bubbles is a real thing

That was a clever move by Apple.

People hate the green bubbles. To see for yourself, just search Twitter for "green bubbles" - https://twitter.com/search?f=realtime&q=%22green%20bubbles%2...



the improvement to my love life has been huge.

...that depresses me on several levels.

I tried out Windows Phone for two weeks a few years back and my significant other was upset that I went green.

I do wonder what the impact of this is. I can't think of any good way you could study it other than surveying people. Does this have a discernible market effect under demographic most vulnerable to social pressure?

People just like to make it sound like it's a really big deal amongst young people. When in fact it's probably just one of dozens of reasons for which they phone they choose.

Treating young people like they are less savvy or reasoned about the decisions is always a mistake. Likewise you can't just treat hundreds of millions of people as thought they are one homogenous hivemind.

>Treating young people like they are less savvy or reasoned about the decisions is always a mistake.

I am not sure it is always a mistake. People have made billions of dollars by doing. Look at how sneakers are advertised and sold. On a more sinister note, take a look at the whole Joe Camel cigarette advertising campaign.

Most people who are buying expensive sneakers are not young. And it's nothing to do with advertising and everything to do with fashion, hobby, exclusivity etc.

Likewise bringing up cigarette is ridiculous since it ignores the fact that they are highly addictive.

> Likewise bringing up cigarette is ridiculous since it ignores the fact that they are highly addictive.

To be addictive you need to start, and the cigarette companies knew that if you made it out of your teenage years without smoking, there was almost no chance you would start smoking. All of that marketing worked on teenagers specifically due to peer pressure and desire to fit in/be cool. And it's repeating itself with Juul. Virtually no 20+ year old non-smokers wake up one day and think "I want to start a vaping habit."

Some would argue that smartphones are addictive.

Right, not at all like phones :)

You don't think it's possible that teenagers place increased weight on what might normally be considered an insignificant difference? And that this has a non-zero market impact?

There's a reason people buy Supreme.

In another comment you refer to "exclusivity" with fashion. Why, then, is it such a ridiculous proposition that the exclusivity of having a blue text message bubble could have an impact as a status symbol, in it of itself?

There is absolutely a market impact

Interesting to know if they were new or hand me downs. I'm a grown up with a job and I don't want to pay double for an iPhone.

I'm curious how much is the longer product lifespan of iPhones resulting in parents passing their children hand me down iPhones when they upgrade. Androids don't seem to age as well (as an android user) so they're harder to convince a teen to accept one instead of purchasing something entirely new. Unfortunately the poll data here is very scant.

While on vacation with my extended family I found myself somewhat socially excluded from everyone else as they could share photos via airdrop. I provided the group a shared Google Photos album and a few pictures were uploaded, but not as many as they shared directly. I also have trouble receiving SMS messages with Vcard attachments from iPhone users.

One other point, I ran a major outdoor event this weekend and rented iPads for square transactions. There was no question in my mind that we would rent iPads instead of Android tablets. Why? Because all of our ticketing people we're already familiar with the platform.

Android and iOS platforms are not yet interchangeable from a user experience perspective, and I think that's what drives the kids to the iPhone. It's what everyone else has and if I have one, I'm fully interoperable.

> It's what everyone else has

Only in the US.

As a parent of two teenagers in a relatively affluent part of France I can assure you they have zero interest whether this is Apple or Android. The thing with the bubbles color does not even register.

I would say that the importance of the model is much higher in poorer areas (I know very well a few parents from "the suburbs" (les banlieues), which in France mean unpriviledged zones).

The children of parents who are very well off would have an older phone, sometimes with a broken screen.

As a parent, I bought my son an iPhone because of privacy/malware concerns (perceived or otherwise) in the Android world--but we're already an all-Apple household. I wonder if it's Apple's privacy _marketing_ that won the day here? (Green bubbles notwithstanding.)

Interesting. How were geographically and socio-economically diverse were these surveys? Were they verified?

It's hard to assess these results without knowing: 1. how many of those teens had any choice; 2. how many teens had an informed choice; 3. how many teens reported having no phone.

With regards to "geographically and socio-economically diverse" - those details are on page 2.

The choice bit is I think decently covered by the future purchase intent questions. The diversity / proper sampling of respondents is definitely questionable though.

Fascinating and if you think about it, it's hardly a surprise.

Kids want to be cool in front of their peer groups (I think all of you have experienced that period in your lives, don't bring up yourself as an exception, it's not contributing to the discussion).

Kids want to be part of social clans and groups.

It's hard to dispute the above 2 statements, so the conclusion that iPhones are the preferred choice due to a. Coolness factor b. Everyone else is using it / walled garden / iMessage

is hardly a surprise.

I would love to see the discussion project onwards to the future -- what implications does this have for when these 13 somethings become 23 somethings with a job and have to buy a phone.

Are they going to switch to Android at some point?

Does majority of the growing population get used to iPhone at an early age, which means we will see an uptick in iPhone adoption in the coming decade?

I find these questions far more fascinating.

Definitely not true here in Canada (Ontario). I'd say it's a around 50/50, maybe majority Android.

In vancouver, iphones are an overwhelming majority. I think I read somewhere that nationwide it's around 60-40 ios-android?

I wonder if it is because of the phone plans that we have?


Sort of makes sense. Android is generally a mess and hasn't really added much of value over the last 4 years. Whereas iOS has had huge yearly updates with actual features.

Plus, iMessage is a huge draw. Android has what, 5 messaging apps?

You're making a huge assumption that the young mainstream picked iOS over Android was because of function over form.

You can't discount that their products are very fashionable (Apple markets well, they look great, everyone else has one).

1) Discount someone from making an opinion based on an assumption.

2) Then in the next sentence. Make an opinion based on an assumption.

It's not just an assumption that Apple has a strong fashion /brand appeal ...

Note how sentence 2 does not claim it to be the reason, but offers it as a potential reason.

Conversely, it can't be discounted that the fashion might follow functionality. Apples has a lot more experience than Google at creating comprehensively great user experiences.

Google's signature successes, Search and Mail, have wildly different success criteria for user satisfaction than an operating system. Apple's signature successes all have operating systems and then there is the iPod which is a bit different.

The iPhone is differentiated by much more than Apple's marketing. Everybody markets their product.

Kids can also be extremely mean and some will jump all over “green text” kids. Apple certainly doesn’t help by closing their API. Not that they should have to open it but it’s not like they have a really affordable option anymore so the pressure on low income kids and subsequently their parents is pretty strong.

If keeping the API closed causes bullying, then yes, Apple absolutely should have to open it.

Then why is iOS not generally successful outside US?

I am not sure why you don’t consider it successful. Here in London iOS is the default. Android-wise I only see two categories of users: power-users that chose Android for functional or ideological reasons, and budget-constrained users that cant afford or don’t see the value in an iOS device. Both those groups seem to be the minority, just looking around for people on their phones in public places yields a majority of iPhones.

Pretty much all of continental Europe (including wealthy countries such as Germany) have iPhone market share at less than 20%; the UK is the outlier there.

France is also an exception then from what I remember pre-2015 (unless things changed dramatically since then).

Android is pretty huge in Europe. London could be an exception. Surprising even Chinese brands became popular lately with own physical stores in Western European capitals.

I think there is a patriotism component in iPhone US prevalence.

At least here in Brazil it comes down to cost. Iphones are extremely expensive, and restricted to the luxufy segment.

Have you ever actually used a stock Android device? The experience is much much cleaner than iOS. I use an Android phone and an iPad Pro every day, and I am honestly put off browsing the web in the iPad because the experience is just feels 'off'.

Disclaimer is that I live in Europe and nobody here uses iMessage. Its mostly FB Messenger or WhatsApp.

> The experience is much much cleaner than iOS.

In what way?

Here are a few IMO: - Less or no unremovable apps introduced by carrier/phone manufacturer - UI parallel to current Android stock trend rather than manufacturer's vision - Updates easier to attain since the manufacturer hurdle is less or non-existent

All of these are true for iOS and have been since its inception.

Note that outside the US the numbers are very different, if not for other reason than most people not being able to afford or willing to pay the iPhone premium.

I honestly can't understand why Google hasn't been able to replicate the success of iMessage. It can't be /that/ hard to figure out if the person on the other side is using an Android with a compatible Messaging app version and then switch over to an internet-handled chat.

> I honestly can't understand why Google hasn't been able to replicate the success of iMessage.

I mean a better question at this point is perhaps why Apple engineering hasn't been able to implement RCS.

RCS is designed to be controlled by the carriers. You know what else is controlled by carriers and has gone to shit as far as spam and security is concerned? SMS.

We actually have to thank the “walled garden” for the lack of spam on iMessage.

While I’d like Apple to also support RCS, I still want iMessage to remain the default for communicating with iOS users.

Why should Apple implement RCS?

All the backend is controlled by Google. All the risks, none of the gains.

No it isn't.

RCS its a open cellular standard thats being deployed worldwide. Google does offer a backend for carriers to use (when you want to push your cloud offerings and have tons of engineers with nothing else to do just like AWS) but it's not required and carriers are rolling their own. The protocol itself is meant for inter-carrier communication and phones.

> I honestly can't understand why Google hasn't been able to replicate the success of iMessage

It's not because Google is doing a bad job, it's because Apple is doing a _great_ job.

Apple's framing of iOS as a luxury brand is why the "blue vs. green bubbles" type of sentiment has real impact within younger social circles.

That has nothing to do with why Apple owners prefer blue bubbles. It’s because SMS is unreliable and restrictive. You can’t share files, some carriers truncate messages and send them as multiple messages, media formats are limited, group chats don’t work right, typing indicator doesn’t work, read receipts don’t work, etc. Green bubble does not mean lower status, it means a significantly degraded experience.

Some kids may act like those with green bubbles are not part of the in group, but this is done in jest. Kids do that with everything. My generation did it with video game consoles and sports teams. You had Sega people and Nintendo people. Nike vs Adidas. It wasn’t about status.

Isn't there a clear solution in just using a non-sms app available to both Android and iPhone, like Messenger or WhatsApp?

from an iphone users perspective there is no problem that requires a solution. Since iMessage is installed by the default, and there is no need for another app. And with iOS being pretty dominant in the US, no other app is going to get the traction it needs on iOS to be a successful cross platform communications.

Looks like Android has about 45% of the market in the United States. I actually thought it was higher.


I think the incompatibility is a bigger deal than you think it is. There is a need for a proper messaging app.

Imessage comes with ios and is the same as the app you use for sms.

Signal does it just fine - I can only assume that Google is distracted or just doesn't care.

Google talk/hangouts chat still works and does this. Although you are also correct in that case as Google is distracted and doesn't care about Google talk.

And of course fragmentation-- Even if Talk, Signal, Whatsapp and Telegram all support discovery and upgrade, the network effects (or lack of them) kills it in practice.

Probably that they consider it wouldn't generate revenue.

Google could create the greatest messaging app on the planet, but the carriers have more control on Android. They would just not install it on their phones by default. Which means it would not get the traction needed to succeed. Heck most US carriers don't even install one of googles current messaging apps, they install their own customized one.

They do, works in a very similar way

Android has always been a stop-gap for Google. Fuchsia is going to be the first real competitor to iOS.

By the time Fuschia actually ships as a complete OS, perhaps the industry will have moved on to a new hardware form factor and smartphones will be considered a legacy product. Sort of like how Android was originally designed as an OS for compact cameras and then later pivoted to smartphones.

This is exactly why Fuchsia is a capabilities based OS, designed to run on any device.


Historically attempts to create a modular, universal OS that runs on any hardware haven't ended well. Such projects tend to collapse under their own weight due to scope creep and the resulting software is usually too poorly optimized for any particular hardware to make a compelling product.

Like Linux?

What is it about Fuschia that will improve the messaging situation?

I fail to see the relevance of comparing an opinion from 20 years ago to a product that didn’t even exist. Besides the fact that Google is literally 10x beyond any software company that existed in the 90s in terms of resources both human and financial. Nothing is possible until it is.

> I fail to see the relevance of comparing an opinion from 20 years ago to a product that didn’t even exist

And why not? The mythical man-month is getting on 50 years old now and still relevant.

> Google is literally 10x beyond any software company that existed in the 90s in terms of resources both human and financial

That is fair. (And, as per a recent HN post, most should strive not to do what google does, since most don't have to crawl the entire web.)

That'd be a terrible strategy. Why not build a message app and then port it over to Fuchsia?

Its going to be an up hill battle for Fuchsia

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