This Isn't Your Father's iPhone

If I hear one more media reference to “geeks” in reporting on the annual CES convention, I swear I am going to grab my ten-sided D&D dice and cast a spell on someone. And there are apps for RPG dice-rolling, you know. No, really, scores of them, especially on the Google Play store that powers the Android platform. Because everyone knows that is a haven for (well, OK) geeks.

The fact of the matter is that we’re all geeks now. With smartphones now past the 50% tipping point and Apple reporting over 40 billion downloads from its iOS App Store thus far, gadget culture is now as American in the 2000s as car culture was to the 1950s. While consumerism has been at the center of our values, economy and just about everything else for a century, some segments of that culture of stuff emerge at different times as especially linked to our sense of personal identity. Cars emerged early as a marker of status and style, but so did music and even cigarette brands at various times. Gadgetry, especially mobile devices, are taking on some of these contours. As Apple struggles to maintain its luster, there was a lot of talk this week about how rivals like Samsung are gaining traction with consumers.

Targeting by device was among the earliest forms of mobile ad segmentation because it was among the few data points available from mobile advertising’s first stages. In the mid-2000s the overwhelming majority of mobile ads were pushing more mobile content (ringtones, wallpapers, games), and so the device ID could determine whether certain content was compatible and even change the ad creative dynamically to include the name of the user’s handset. Today, we can start to see how devices still carry with them certain affinities.

Just as car models and cigarette brands align with certain demographics, gadgets are becoming identified with some segments. For instance, peruse the digital magazine newsstands at the various apps stores. The Google Play and Barnes & Noble Nook are a study in radical difference. The top titles in Google are all heavily male-skewed, while the Nook’s are just as heavily from the women’s service and celebrity vertical. While the Android platform has massive worldwide penetration as a device, its hardest core users, especially on the Android tablets like Nexus 7 and Samsung Tabs, seem to fall into the tech-centric and male segments.

Another example comes to us courtesy off content marketing company Kontera. In its analysis of content it served across mobile platforms in the car category, the company found decidedly different levels of interest coming from users of the major operating systems and devices. Mobile consumption of all kinds of content related to automobiles varied only slightly between smartphone platforms, with 39% coming from Android devices and 36% from iPhones. A quarter of all auto content was consumed on iPads.

But when the car content was focused on luxury automobiles, the consumption pattern changed markedly. For this content, the iPad was the dominant platform, responsible for 45% of content consumption, compared to 32% on iPhone and 23% on Android. Whether because of the basic demographics of the iPad or (also possible) the at-home, prime-time, lean-back mode of iPad use, the Apple tablet is far and away the place to target with luxury car content.

Curiously, the balance shifts just as radically again when the content is related to electric autos. Here is where that persistent Android techie-skew kicks in because a whopping 48% of that content was consumed on the Android OS. Only 29% was consumed on iPhones and even less (23%) was pulled onto the iPad.  

Personal computing devices of this generation are poised to tell us more about consumer tastes, wants and needs than almost anything that preceded them. In part this comes from the unprecedented embrace of these gadgets by consumers. PC adoption was an uphill battle that took decades as these relatively unfriendly devices tried to make the case for their utility in everyday lives. The typical consumer lament was always that he or she didn’t understand most of what their PC could do. I really don’t hear that complaint as much about smartphones and tablets. Apple helped solve a real gadget problem, and Google wisely followed it wholesale rather than confuse the market with a different path.

Apple’s breakout brand success clearly is leveling. In the history of gadgetry we may look back at these years as a time when tech brands really did start differentiating into Buicks, Dodges, Oldsmobiles, Lucky Strikes, etc.  We have already seen some of this brand differentiation in the successful Samsung ads, where Apple is seen as the special fetish of an older generation.

If gadgetry really does start segmenting out this way, then these segments will be delivering back massive amounts of affinity data from the ways they interact with the devices.

Which begs the question of whether in 2020 we may be talking about an “Apple comeback” in the 12th generation of devices. Imagine an Oldsmobile-like tagline: “This isn’t your father’s iPhone.” 

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1 comment about "This Isn't Your Father's iPhone".
  1. Pete Austin from Triggered Messaging , January 12, 2013 at 9:30 a.m.
    Not everyone with a smartphone is a geek now, just as not everyone with stone-tipped arrows was a geek back in the day. Geekdom is a moving target. Then, geeks had the Clovis points. Today, geeks are the people with the right apps to automate their lives, not people who own a particular phone, so targeting them is a bit more complicated than looking at hardware.