Do Personality Differences Explain SmartPhone Choice?

smart phone personality

An intriguing research project in the U.K. appears to have shed some light on why different people choose iPhones rather than Android smart phones and vice versa.

Nearly all smartphones are either Android devices or iPhones but there are many more of the former than the latter. It appears that marketing strategy is definitely aimed at particular target markets and the research appears to pinpoint personality as being the most important determinant rather than the depth of the pocket.

Smart phones in one form or another have only been around for about ten years. The first smart phone to be released was the iPhone. It achieved instant success and the smart phone market continued to increase exponentially over the next few years. To a certain extent it has levelled off now, but that’s partly because just about everyone who wants one already has one. The focus for smart phone manufacturers has been on expanding the number of features for each new release.

The number of smart phone owners amongst adult in the U.S. where statistics of smart phone use is most recent, is estimated to be 77%. That’s about double the 2011 figures. Nearly 97% of adult Americans have a cell phone or smart phone. The statistics also show that the following factors influence smart phone ownership:

  • More smart phones are owned by younger people. The ownership percentages decrease with age.
  • More affluent people own more smart phones than poorer people.
  • Gender and ethnicity have very little to do with percentage ownership.
  • City dwellers have slightly greater percentage ownership than rural residents.
  • The more educated the person, the higher the ownership of smart phones.

iPhones versus Androids

The number of Android smart phones is much greater than iPhones. Android smart phones are estimated to make up 87.6 percent of the market while iPhones are only 11.7 percent. The functionality of the more expensive smart phones is very similar to that of iPhones, so who prefers iPhones and who prefers Androids?

A joint research project in the U.K. by the Universities of Hertfordshire, Lancaster and Lincolnshire asked 500 people to answer a series of questions about themselves and their smart phones.

The results showed that iPhone users were more likely to:

  • Be female rather than male by a factor of 2
  • View their iPhones as a status symbol more than Android owners
  • Be less concerned about what type of phone the majority of people own
  • Be less honest
  • Be less humble
  • Be more emotional
  • Be more extroverted

Android owners were more likely to be:

  • Male
  • Less interested in personal wealth
  • Less interested in their social status
  • More honest than iPhone owners
  • More agreeable than iPhone owners
  • Less likely to break rules in order to gain something personally

The project went further than just summarising the results of their questionnaires. They used the results to extrapolate who owned which device by measuring their personality traits against the results of their own survey. They fund that the degree of correlation was higher than that of pure chance, which tends to confirm that there must be something in the research findings.

The real differences between Android and iOS devices

Even if the differences between smart phone and tablet choice are determined, at least part, by personality differences and gender, there are some real differences between the two operating systems which many people consider when making a choice.

Android devices:

  • Are much more common than iOS devices like iPhones. In fact, Android is nearly overtaking Windows in terms of the most used operating systems in the world, a reflection of just how many people are now using smart phones rather than laptops when on the move.
  • Are open source, making them more easily customised than Apple devices. The latter’s hardware and software is controlled by Apple.
  • Are more exposed to malware than Apple devices because of the lack of control over apps.
  • have less support than Apple devices;
  • Have a greater variety of phones and tablets to choose from compared to Apple;
  • Have a greater choice of prices so appeal to a greater range of budgets;
  • Have the ability to expand storage whereas Apple devices do not.


More and more people now have smart phones of one type or another. Research from the U.S. tends to show that it is younger, richer, more educated and more urbanised people who have more smart phones with ethnicity and gender having little influence.

Other research from the U.K. seems to indicate that more females like iPhones and those that do may do so because they see them as status symbols.

Whatever the reasons, it seems that all types of smart phones are becoming more popular to carry around than laptops.

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.