Is the OS war poised to become a battle of the sexes?

Despite the enormity of the divide separating Apple and Google in their race for mobile industry supremacy, it turns out that consumers on their respective iPhone and Android platforms exhibit remarkably similar behaviors and activity levels. iPhone users and Android users both download about nine new applications each month and spend about 80 minutes per day using them, according to mobile advertising firm AdMob's January 2010 Mobile Metrics Report--by comparison, iPod touch owners download an average of 12 applications per month and devote an average of 100 minutes per day to using them, and Palm webOS users download just six apps each month and spend about 87 minutes daily with them. The biggest difference: Spending on premium applications. AdMob reports that iPhone users continue to download more paid apps than other smartphone users, with 50 percent of iPhone owners purchasing at least one premium app per month, compared to 21 percent of Android users.

The other notable difference between iPhone and Android users is their gender breakdown--AdMob notes that 73 percent of Android users are male, in contrast with 57 percent of iPhone users, 54 percent of iPod touch users and 58 percent of webOS users. While the AdMob study doesn't delve into the surprising disparity between male Android owners and their female counterparts, it's an anomaly that demands further consideration. Conventional wisdom suggests that Android smartphones are so popular with men because they've been so strongly marketed that way--consider this Motorola Droid commercial from late last year, which boasts a higher testosterone level than a bull shark stalking its prey. "Should a phone be pretty?" the ad asks. "Should it be a tiara-wearing, digitally clueless beauty pageant queen? Or should it be fast? Racehorse-duct-taped-to-a-Scud-missile fast. We say the latter. So we built the phone that does. Does rip through the web like a circular saw through a ripe banana. Is it a precious porcelain figurine of a phone? In truth? No. It's not a princess. It's a robot. A phone that trades hairdo for can-do."

Motorola isn't the only mobile company aggressively targeting male consumers, of course--a FLO TV ad introduced during the Super Bowl implores henpecked men to turn to mobile television to keep up with live sports programming on the go and to "change out of that skirt." But women still comprise about 51 percent of the American population as a whole, and while Nielsen notes that men make up about 53 percent of mobile web users, the female audience is growing at a far faster pace, increasing 43 percent year-over-year compared to 26 percent annual growth among men. Perhaps that's why a series of recent Verizon Wireless spots actively reach out to women subscribers, touting the Palm Pre as "the first 3G smartphone smart enough to keep up with mom." It will be fascinating to see if the balance of webOS users shifts from male to female in the months ahead, creating a disparity similar to what we're seeing now on Android--and it should prove equally interesting to see whether developers respond in kind, creating new applications designed to appeal to the gender group that dominates their platform of choice. -Jason

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