At the Festival of NewMR last week, Paul McDonald of Google Consumer Surveys shared some early findings from his ongoing research into the differences between iPhone and Android users, and between smartphone users and the general Internet population. The rise of mobile panels, including Google’s new mobile panel Google Opinion Rewards, makes it important that researchers understand the differences between these groups. Some panels, including Google’s, are limited to one smartphone operating system.

Google ran 45 separate 2-question surveys on its Google Consumer Surveys platform, each with 2,000 qualifying respondents. Only respondents who owned either an Apple iPhone or an Android smartphone qualified. For ease of analysis, Google grouped these 45 questions into 7 different categories.

­Google found only 1.80 percentage points of difference between Android smartphone and iPhone users across these categories. Differences were highest for shopping behavior and media consumption and lowest for political ideology and civic engagement:

  • 3.87 pp – Shopping behavior
  • 2.71 pp – Media consumption
  • 2.51 pp – Demographcs
  • 1.99 pp – Foreign and domestic political issues
  • 1.93 pp – Technology use
  • 1.42 pp – Civic, political and religious engagement
  • 1.32 pp – Political ideology


Smartphone users are more similar to one another than they are to the general Internet population. Android users differed from the Internet population in their answers by 4.73 percentage points, while iPhone users differed by 5.61 percentage points. In fact, the only category where iPhone users were more like the general population than Android smartphone users was political ideology.

The differences:

  • 7.36-8.67 pp – Shopping behavior
  • 5.21-6.77 pp – Media consumption
  • 4.99-6.69 pp – Foreign and domestic political issues
  • 4.18-4.97 pp – Civic, political and religious engagement
  • 4.16-4.30 pp – Technology use
  • 3.75-4.64 pp – Demographics
  • 3.07-3.34 pp – Political ideology


For market researchers, the concern has to be that the differences are widest for those areas that the industry researches most often: shopping behavior and media consumption. Political pollsters might be happier, except that they rarely use online panels.

As Google pointed out, as smartphone adoption continues its rapid pace, the differences between smartphone owners and the general Internet population will decline.

Additionally, the differences between the Internet population and the general population will decline, as smartphones convert Internet laggards into users.

This should be a fertile area of research in 2014, as Google continues its research and as others attempt to validate it. Key questions for me:

  • How do mobile users differ from the general population (including non-Internet users)?
  • How do smartphone respondents differ from the mobile population in general? (This was an online study, with – presumably – some mobile respondents but mainly laptop- or desktop-using respondents. Up-to-date Android and iPhone users may differ from users of older devices, who may not be able to run the panel apps.)