That discrepancy largely has to do with how the two ecosystems have developed, noted Mary Ellen Gordon, director of industry insights and analysis for the research firm, Flurry.
Flurry analyzed four years worth of its own data to understand who is ahead in which contests, discuss the apparent strengths and weaknesses of the competitors, and consider the implications for the overall mobile ecosystem, according to the company’s blog.
Up to the introduction of the newer Samsung Galaxy S models, Android buyers were purchasing their phones for different reasons than iPhone users, she explained.
Apple has always positioned the iPhone as a mini-computer that you run apps on, she continued. On the other hand, many Android users came to the platform as an upgrade from a feature phone.
“That fundamental difference in mindset could result in a difference in the propensity to use apps,” she told PCWorld. “If you’re buying a device for apps, you’re going to use a lot of apps. If you’re buying it as a phone, you’re going to use it as a phone.”
Fragmentation in the Android market may also contribute to lower app usage. There are many screen sizes, device types, memory configurations, and versions of the operating system in the market. “It just makes it harder for app developers to develop for Android,” she said.
Quality, too, may be an issue discouraging app usage. “Apple curates apps before they appear in the app store,” Gordon explained. “Google’s approach is to let an app go live and take it down if people complain about it.”
Flurry’s numbers, though, may not give a complete picture of app usage in the ecosystems. If iOS and Android users are studied in the aggregate, discrepancies in app usage will appear between the two groups, but if you dig deeper, you’ll find that both are the same, said Craig Palli, vice president for business development and client services for Fiksu, an application market research company.
“If you peel back just one or two layers of the onion, there is a lot more parity than there is at that top level,” he told PCWorld.
For example, he continued, if you look at apps that were created specifically for Android and not “crammed” into the platform from an iOS app, app usage among Android users increases.
“Cramming disserves Android when making comparisons with Apple,” he said.
Fragmentation can also skew conclusions about app usage. “If you eliminate the bottom 30 percent of the Android devices in the market, you can improve app usage by 60 percent,” Palli said. “And when you do that, these two user groups [Android and iOS] look almost identical.”
However, Android has an advantage over iOS from a marketer’s perspective. “It costs less to acquire the users there than it does in iOS,” Palli said.
“So, in aggregate, I wouldn’t disagree with Flurry’s findings,” he added, “but if you go deeper, and you’re a businessperson trying to compare these two groups for developing your app, Android is, in many ways, preferable.”