Opinion

What your smartphone says about who you are

Posted January 4

Many of us are smartphone addicts. Whether you have an iPhone, or an Android-based mobile, the smartphone has become, for many, a necessary item in our lives. Recently, some psychologists started to consider smartphones as extensions of our personalities. That is, to some extent, the smartphones we buy tend to show our personality traits. But how much can people guess about us from our phones? First of all, how many smartphones are there in the U.S.? According to eMarketer, at the end of 2015, there were an estimated 190.5 million smartphones, owned by approximately 60 percent of the American population. By 2019, they estimate that there will be 236.8 million devices. According to ComScore, Apple's iPhone holds 43.6 percent of the U.S. market while Android commands 52.8 percent.

The following findings come from a U.K. study, and some of the conclusions may not be totally applicable to people in the U.S. According to the British Psychological Society, women are two times more likely to have an iPhone than men. Moreover, Android users are perceived as more honest and humble. They also are more agreeable and open. Being more agreeable in psychology includes traits like being sympathetic, kind and affectionate. Being open includes having many interests, being imaginative and insightful.

With respect to wealth and status, research done by Lancaster University states that iPhone users tend to see their phones as status symbols, whereas Android users seem less interested in wealth and status. The following figures are more applicable to the U.S., since they come from Hunch.com. iPhone users appear to appreciate having phones similar to their friends and colleagues, whereas Android users are less likely to be interested in device conformity. In a similar vein, iPhone customers are 14 percent more likely to be extroverts compared to Android owners. Conversely, Android users are 12 percent more likely to be introverts, as noted by the Social Times.

Additionally, Social Times states that, compared to Android users, 26 percent more of iPhone buyers enjoy spending their money, whereas, compared to the iPhone aficionados, Android users are 29 percent more likely to prefer saving it. This is, in part, because Android users are 24 percent more likely to have a household income between $50,000 and $100,000, whereas iPhone users are 67 percent more likely to earn above $100,000.

What about ideological orientation and the place consumers live? Compared to iPhone users, Android customers are 20 percent more likely to be conservative and 86 percent more likely to live in the country. On the other hand, iPhone users are 17 percent more likely to be liberal and are 27 percent more apt to live in a city.

Interestingly, iPhone users are more likely to date people from their workplaces. They would also generally contact their date within a day of meeting them for the first time. Whereas Android users appear more prone to wait two or three days before making contact.

Finally, these figures do not apply to any particular smartphone user; they are probability-based measures that draw conclusions about groups of people, not specific individuals. In general, different users have different reasons for choosing a phone, including economic ones. Since selecting a phone is about preferences and tastes, who can say who is right or wrong? It’s all about which phone addresses your personal needs best, and of course, which one you simply like the most. It’s fun to follow these studies but, in the end, statistics only tell part of the story.

John Hoffmire is director of the Impact Bond Fund at Saïd Business School at Oxford University and directs the Center on Business and Poverty at UW-Madison. He runs Progress Through Business, a nonprofit group promoting economic development. Mario Alejandro Mercado Mendoza, Hoffmire’s colleague at Progress Through Business, did the research for this article.

John Hoffmire teaches at SaÏd Business School at the University of Oxford.

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