Engagement, affluence, and value: The numbers Apple's using to show Android is #2

Apple believes their customers browse more, buy more, and are just plain worth more than Android's. And they're saying so now. A lot.

It's commonplace now for an Apple event keynote to include a slide or two pointing out Google's struggle to get tablet-optimized versions of Android apps, or to get any sort of usage momentum. That makes sense. Unlike the raw marketshare numbers that so often consume the popular media narrative these days, usage is hugely in Apple's favor.

During their Q1 2014 conference call, Apple took those numbers to another level. They hammered them more times, in more ways, than ever before. They made a constant, concerted, and conscientious effort to position themselves as first and foremost in the areas they believe should matter the most to investors, developers, and ultimately customers. And just as much effort to position Google's Android as a distant #2.

The biggest, boldest claim came near the beginning — iOS 7 is the most popular operating system in the world.

That claim caused an internet-wide double-take, because pretty much everyone is used to hearing that Android enjoys a massive marketshare lead over Apple. The metric, so often repeated, has led to questions about whether or not Apple can maintain developer loyalty, much less exclusivity. By changing the metric of comparison from generic platform vs. platform to specific version vs. version, Apple is changing the conversation to what they believe really matters.

According to App Store numbers, 80% of iOS devices now run iOS 7. Apple compared that to "single-digit" adoption rates for the latest version of Android 4.4, KitKit. (Google Play numbers peg KitKat at 1.4% at the time of this writing). Although Apple didn't call it out, 4.1 Jelly Bean, released July 13, 2012, enjoys the largest share of Android adoption, 35.9%. The next highest is 2.3 Gingerbread, released December 6, 2010, at 21.2%.

Yes, given the very different platform models, it's absolutely an apples to oranges comparison, but that makes it no less valid. Marketshare numbers are next to useless, given the lack of segmentation currently in place in the industry — Apple has 0% of the under $400 phone market but a huge share of the over $600 market. There's an urgent need for better, more mature metrics. Absent that, Apple's making their own case.

The message here is that the sheer quantity of devices that make up the platform doesn't matter anywhere nearly as much as the value of the platform, be it consistency of install base, or engagement and even affluence of the customer base.

Usage numbers were once again front and center as well, with Chikita Insights quoted as saying the iPhone controlled 54% of U.S. smartphone web traffic and the iPad, 78% of tablet traffic. Apple, of course, pointed out that these usage numbers were far greater than the market share numbers, specifically calling how engaging and important that made them. They also singled out China specifically, saying 57% of mobile web browsing in China happened on iOS devices.

To show that where attention goes, money follows, Apple used IBM's numbers. iOS counted for 32.6% vs. Android's 14.8% in traffic — thats over 2x — and a 23% vs. 4.6% in sales — over 5x — on Christmas. Black Friday numbers skewed massively in Apple's favor as well.

The message here is Apple customers have more money and/or spend more money than Android customers, and merchants should want Apple customers to be their customers.

The carriers were given a reminder of that as well. Apple pointed out that, in the U.S., the iPhone accounted for a 41% share of subscribers during the quarter ending November, 2013. That's the value to carriers. Despite grumbles about the price of carrying the iPhone, it still drives customer adoption and sells lucrative service plans. Where average revenue per customer (ARPU) is king, iPhone's value still far exceeds its cost.

For developers, this was further re-enforced with numbers. Big numbers. 6 billion cumulative downloads. $2 billion paid out to developers in the December quarter alone. $15 billion cumulative, half of which was generated in the last four quarters. That says it's not only massive, but still growing massively. Apple cited Business Insider Intelligence, saying iOS has a 5x advantage over Android when it comes to developer revenue per app download, a 4x advantage for in-app purchases (IAP), and a 2x advantage for paymium (paid + IAP). Citing Distmo, Apple said the iOS App Store had a 63% to 37% advantage over Google Play in global app review. To complete the shock and awe, download stats were shared for some exclusive launches and apps — in the millions.

Apple called it a "superior marketplace". In other words, if you target Apple customers, you'll make more money.

And that was only during the prepared statements.

The Apple-is-doomed market and media manipulations didn't miss a trick in 2013, but this much is clear — Apple knows where they're strong, knows where their competition is weak, and they certainly seem more determined than ever to get their message out.

Whether or not we get a bigger iPhone 6 this year, or an updated Apple TV or iWatch this century, Apple is going to tell the story of Apple again — their verse, their history, and their core values.

And they're not going to let Android, media hit pieces, or market insanity get in their way.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.