Why The iPhone's Usage Advantage Over Android Remains So Important

Even as Google's Android platform captures a majority of the U.S. smartphone market share, Apple retains one key advantage: iPhone users spend far more time with their devices.

A new study, this one by Experian, shows again that when it comes to actual usage, iPhone handily beats Android, with iPhone users spending an average of 26 more minutes each day on their devices. Android users use their devices 49 minutes per day - for iPhone users, that figure is 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Win-Win-Win

While it's not clear exactly why Apple holds this advantage, that 26 minutes per day adds up to 3 hours a week, 156 hours a year - the rough equivalent of a full month of regular workdays for every user. That difference is critical in many ways, helping Apple continue to attract carriers and developers to its platform - and helps make its higher prices more palatable to consumers. 

For carriers, the iPhone's advantage in engagement makes it more valuable: more usage = more bandwidth = higher revenues. That will help Apple continue to hold carriers hostage to its hefty subsidy demands. 

For users, any additional costs of an iPhone over an Android device is more easily justified by in the additional value gleaned from the extra usage. 

For app developers, the additional usage makes the iPhone a more appealing platform for their products. These numbers should help cement iOS' pace remain the go-to platform for smartphone app developers. Just as important, as it turns out, iPhone users aren't just more engaged, they use their devices differently.

The Little Differences

A surprising datapoint from the Experian consumer study reveals that iPhone and Android users differ noticeably in how they use their devices.  

iPhone owners spend a disproportionately greater share of smartphone time than Android owners texting, emailing, using the camera and social networking.

According to Experian, 28% of the time Android users spend on their devices is dedicated to talking, whereas for iPhone users the number is only 22%. Android owners also devote a greater share of time visiting websites on their phone do than iPhone owners.

The combination of higher overall daily usage on iPhone, plus the relatively phone and Web-centric usage of Android should continue to mitigate Android's lead in the number of devices out there and convince app developers to continue to focus first and foremost on iPhone. iPhone is simply more "app centric."

Not For Video

On average, smartphone users - both Android and iPhone - spend 58 minutes per day on their device. Video watching, Experian noted, comprised a surprisingly small share of daily smartphone use. This is because only a small number - 2.3% - of smartphone owners watch video on their device "during a typical day." Of those few that do, the average time spent is 5 minutes, spread over 4.2 different sessions. 

If this pattern holds, it could diminish hopes for smartphones to serve as the "second screen." Such numbers could also place obvious limits on the revenue potential of mobile video, including YouTube. The chart below reveals the more common smartphone activities and time spent on each:

For Tim Cook, Usage Trumps Market Share

At the recent D11 Conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook, when questioned about market share, stated that "winning, for us, has never been about making the most." Cook focuses instead on engagement and customer satisfaction. Given Apple's market position, there is no doubt that Cook is wise to focus on such metrics.

In market share, Android beats iPhone in the U.S. - and even more so around the world. But iPhone still wins on engagement - and needs to maintain its lead in that area if Apple wants to keep its premium position among carriers, developers and phone buyers.