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Android, iPhone users not so different after all

Android and iPhone usage patterns look very much alike. Can RIM and others keep up with the way users want to user their mobile devices.


Data from a new report shows that the iPhone may finally have a true competitor with Android phone users' profile appearing very much alike that of iPhone users'.

According to eMarketer.com, the marketing intelligence firm comScore found that 37 percent of U.S. mobile users had heard of Android in November 2009, up from 22 percent in August, and "likely due to the Verizon Droid ad campaign." More interestingly, "17 percent of mobile users in the market for a new smartphone in the next three months planned to buy an Android phone compared with 20 percent who would pick up an iPhone."

The report also shows that usage patterns for Android and iPhone owners were very similar in terms of media consumption, Web browser, and application usage, but e-mail usage on Android devices oddly tracked behind that of other platforms. This is likely because of the immaturity of the e-mail application that ships with Android and not a change in use patterns.

This news obviously keeps the iPhone in the dominant position, but shows that other smartphones finally present a real challenge. It's notable because BlackBerry and iPhone users have always seemed worlds apart, whereas Android users seem to be using their devices at parity with the iPhone crowd.

The fact that the Droid runs on Verizon instead of AT&T no doubt helps with data usage, though only time will tell if Verizon can handle the traffic or if T-mobile can handle the pressure of a huge influx of new Google Nexus One phones running Android.

As of November 2009, Mark Sue, and RBC Capital Markets analyst, estimated that Verizon sold between 700,000 and 800,000 Droid smartphones. As the Android software gets better and more applications become available, it appears to be the best contender in the short term.

But the Droid is not without its flaws, such as a lack of support for Bluetooth voice dialing or commands. For that matter, the iPhone is no poster child for stability, especially considering the fact that it's the No. 1 seller in the U.S. From dropped calls and miserable battery life to random crashing, it's the best device in a category so new that we really don't know what could be better.

I've been using the iPhone 3GS since it launched. While it remains a fantastic little mobile computer, it remains a mediocre phone. I've experienced more dropped calls, missed connections, and other sundry issues since I switched to the iPhone six months ago than I did with Verizon over several years.

That said, there hasn't been a high-quality alternative that offers the full range of software and hardware that the iPhone does until the Droid came along. I experimented with the Droid and found the keyboard a bit odd but otherwise felt like I could make the switch provided that I could get similar or better applications.

The applications (as we recently learned) are where the iPhone stands out. Despite Apple's occasionally Draconian approval practices, apps have been one of the driving forces behind adoption of not just the iPhone but also the iPod Touch. Comparatively, the Android marketplace has nowhere near the number of applications, but it could easily grow with a bit of marketing to developers.