Mapping Android vs. iOS

There is a great map making the rounds on the web this week. It was created by a group of people who have done a lot of interesting visualization. This map shows Twitter usage on phones plotted around the globe.

The creators took a sample of 2 billion Tweets from last year and winnowed it down to unique users. They then plotted those 280 million users on the map. This is a huge sample, and in theory is pretty indicative of usage. I am a big fan of maps, and this one is just fun to look at.

But there is an interesting message worth pointing out on this one. The blogosphere is taken by the idea that this map shows a clear demographic breakdown of Android and iOS users. If you zoom in on any city, there seems to be a clear pattern. iOS dominates in richer areas, while Android stands out in poorer areas and away from cities. For many, this points to the notion that mobile operating systems (OS) break down largely on income lines. There seems to be some truth to this,  but a few details need to be pointed out.

First, the map lets you toggle the various OSs on and off. If you toggle iOS off, a new pattern emerges. Android then stands out in all the same places where iOS seemed to dominate. This is partially a function of the map. iOS is plotted in a bold red and stands out, while Android is plotted in a pale green. I think this exercise shows that Android is everywhere. Richer consumers have just as much Android as iPhone, but lower income consumers do not buy iPhones.

Secondly, I think this map demonstrates that iOS users Tweet more. That is to say that iPhone users tend to use there devices more heavily than Android users. We have written about this phenomenon several times in the past, and it remains an important aspect of the OS wars. For whatever reason, the average iPhone user just does more with their phone than the average Android user. This has proven to be very important for developers.

That being said, there are some interesting examples of iPhone showing up in unexpected strength in a few areas. For us, the stand out was South Korea. Home of two of the world’s largest Android makers, there is still a very strong iPhone concentration in Seoul.

Finally, it is worth pointing out the pockets where other OSs remain prevalent. In the hear of many major cities, you can still see concentrations of Blackberry loyalists. London, Midtown Manhattan, Paris and Hong Kong Central remain Blackberry strongholds. We would be interested to see how this data has changed over the past year. You can also see strong showings for Blackberry in a few locations – Indonesia, Spain and parts of Latin America still show heavy concentrations of Blackberry purple.

It is tempting to draw some clear cut conclusions from this map. However, we think that if anything this has the most to say about Twitter usage. This is best demonstrated by the blank spot in China. Android and iOS are both doing well there, but Twitter is blocked. On the other hand, India and Africa are both pretty light in posts. We think all of this speaks to the still huge potential for growth of smartphones in much of the world.

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