Android isn’t cool with teenagers, and that’s a big problem

It’s no secret that Android is the most-used working system on the earth, a title it first earned after surpassing Windows in 2017. Unfortunately, that’s a truth not fairly represented within the US. Although Android held the highest cellular OS spot for years, Apple lastly managed to overhaul the competitors in September of 2022, surpassing 50 p.c market share for the primary time. As you’d most likely guess, these numbers have solely elevated from there.

There’s no scarcity of blame to go round for the ever-widening hole between numerous Android-flavored selections and the annual iPhone improve, however one place that appears to go under-analyzed is youngsters. With youthful audiences adopting smartphones sooner than ever, it is no shock they’ve discovered themselves entrenched in a devoted ecosystem from a younger age.

Unfortunately, it would spell much more hassle for Android’s set up base within the US, each within the brief time period and for years to come back.

About a month in the past, funding agency Piper Sandler launched its newest biannual research of youngsters, surveying over 9,000 adolescents throughout America from numerous areas and backgrounds to find out traits throughout dozens of industries. It’s an attention-grabbing sufficient report back to dive into — video video games are up, trend is down — however the line that caught my eye was, unsurprisingly, primarily based round smartphones. According to this yr’s report, 87 p.c of youngsters surveyed personal an iPhone, whereas 88 p.c anticipate to purchase an iPhone as their subsequent machine.

At the danger of sounding overdramatic, these are loss of life spiral numbers for Android within the US. No quantity of adjusting for the margin of error could make these statistics sound wholesome for Google’s future in cellular. Put merely, Android isn’t cool with the American youth of right now, and that’s a problem. It speaks to among the underlying rot going through Android’s future, and sadly, solely a few of it may be improved by Google sooner or later.

Baby’s first ecosystem

To me, Android’s issues right here lie in three distinct areas: ecosystem lock-in, promoting, and dangerous experiences. The first is, by far, the issue enjoying the most important exponential position right here. With a mean age simply shy of 16, the respondents to this ballot had been practically all born in a post-iPhone world. Their dad and mom nearly actually had smartphones, whether or not they used early iOS gadgets or merchandise from Samsung and HTC. There’s a robust probability their first smartphone wasn’t a low-end or finances Android telephone, however a hand-me-down iPhone.

That’s to say nothing of the earliest expertise these children doubtless had with Apple merchandise: the iPad. Bouncing from a pill to a smartphone linked by the identical working system was essential in growing a sense of Apple’s ecosystem early, and as these respondents have gotten older, they’ve solely dug of their heels extra. Piper Sandler’s research factors out that 34 p.c of teenagers additionally personal an Apple Watch. That’s one in three youngsters who’ve bought (or, on the very least, inherited) an non-compulsory, costly accent purpose-built for a single machine. You will not discover that degree of dedication wherever within the Android ecosystem, particularly amongst youthful customers.

Let’s handle the elephant within the room: iMessage. You can discover loads of ink spilled concerning the impact blue bubble exclusivity has on group chats throughout excessive colleges within the US. A 2022 report within the Wall Street Journal detailed tales from youngsters and younger adults alike, all with the identical theme: Android customers — denoted by their inexperienced bubbles in iMessage teams — are appeared down upon in each social and relationship scenes. This alone doubtless performed a position in pushing iPhone utilization for ages 18-24 as much as 74 p.c in 2021, in comparison with 40 p.c for these older than 24.

Yes, that is a phenomenon that, by and massive, solely exists in North America — the prevalence and recognition of cross-platform messaging apps like WhatsApp or Telegram in lots of different international locations makes certain of that. But whether or not or not it impacts the common smartphone shopper within the US (and, frankly, I’d argue that degree of peer-pressure does exist even amongst older millennials), it’s undoubtedly a issue when youthful customers decide their first smartphone.

Yes, we have seen chat platforms come and go — I’m simply sufficiently old to recollect AIM statuses, even when I used to be, maybe, a little younger to be on the platform. But the lead Apple right here is immeasurable, instilling its merchandise because the go-to platform for a complete technology of Americans, with none indicators of a coming crash. Unless some degree of regulation is put in place so as to add cross-platform enriched messaging options throughout iOS and Android, it is laborious to think about this concern resolving itself any time quickly.

Hammering the purpose dwelling, once more and once more

It’s a little too handy to chalk up these traits to ecosystem lock-in alone, although. Advertising doubtless performs simply as massive of a position. Apple’s iPhone advertisements have at all times been slickly produced; you’ll be able to’t say the identical about each Android firm. What’s worse, although, is the carriers. Tune into any NFL sport this season and you will not simply discover in-house Apple advertisements. You’ll discover AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon all selling trade-in offers. Jason Bateman and Sean Hayes aren’t telling you concerning the newest Pixel 8 Pro offers — they’re speaking about titanium.

Then there’s the low-end Android market. Teens which have beforehand used Android telephones or tablets doubtless did so on low cost, finances merchandise that didn’t persuade them to stay round. Amazon may not promote their kid-friendly Fire tablets as Android slates, however they’re sluggish sufficient to depart a mark. The similar goes for older merchandise from numerous Android OEMs. While I’d argue $300 can get you a fairly stable finances smartphone nowadays, you needn’t rewind the clock again too far to seek out a time when that wasn’t the case.

Apple, in the meantime, has solely flirted with budget-friendly merchandise. Alongside Chromebooks, the $329 iPad has turn into a staple of the training market, as the 2 race to win over potential clients on the youngest ages attainable. That slate, low-cost as it might be, is leaps and bounds forward of the most cost effective Android options. Perhaps extra damning, although, is the iPhone SE, a machine my former AP colleague Ryne Hager known as an “simple Android off-ramp.” You or I would acknowledge it would not maintain a candle to Google’s Pixel A-series telephones, however that may not matter when it has iMessage.

It solely takes one low-cost machine lacking updates or working slowly to persuade a client that the iPhone all of their pals have already got is the way in which to go, even when a comparable Android machine would supply the precise expertise they’re in search of. Unfortunately, most teenagers beginning out on Android aren’t doubtless to make use of a Galaxy S23 Ultra — they’re making an attempt out the OS on no matter low cost telephones MVNOs like Straight Talk occur to have in inventory.

What Google can do about it
As pessimistic as all of this sounds, I do not assume Android is totally with out hope within the US. The iMessage scenario stays troublesome, however largely talking, it is out of Google’s palms. Between the corporate’s PR marketing campaign centered round RCS and its latest actions to steer the European Commision to degree the enjoying discipline, all the things else is a ready sport.

What Google — and Samsung, and different, smaller Android producers — can do, although, is try to fulfill youthful audiences on their degree. It’s a harmful technique, one that may all too simply lead into “how do you do, fellow children?” territory. But by shaking up the sport plan, it may very well be attainable for Android to cease bleeding customers.

Embrace customization

The 2013 Moto X was fully customizable.

Dig into any market analysis surrounding Gen Z and you will discover the identical kind of messaging used over and over once more. Today, youthful customers care about individuality and standing out from the group. Consider what number of iPhones you see in eating places, on trains, at live shows. Marketing gadgets from Samsung or Google as options is a good begin, but it surely’s removed from sufficient.

Instead, OEMs bringing again one thing like Moto Maker, a instrument that allowed buyers to fully customise practically each facet of their {hardware}, may show worthwhile. Mixing and matching colours and supplies would permit patrons to face out from the group. Companies like Microsoft have pulled this off with customized gaming controllers, with Samsung’s Bespoke Edition sequence comes closest within the smartphone realm. It’s not sufficient, although — to succeed right here, you’d want a broad vary of choices accessible for one thing as standard because the Galaxy S24 sequence is prone to be.

Android producers embracing foldables can also be a nice begin. Unique kind components you will not discover working iOS are rising extra standard within the US by the day, due to an all-new choice of nice foldables that did not exist final yr. On the advertising facet, I really assume Samsung’s latest advert campaigns for the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is a stable instance of pulling this off. If the corporate can cease resting whereas it is forward and get again to innovating, it is easy to think about a world the place clamshell gadgets begin successful over a choose group of youthful audiences.

Long story brief, customization and distinctive experiences are, with out a doubt, the center of Android. Lean into it.

Go inexperienced, and show it

Teenagers and younger adults are additionally way more eco-conscious than different patrons. We’ve seen loads of posturing from Google and Samsung about their dedication to a inexperienced future, however nobody’s fairly put their cash the place their mouth is like Apple. As overblown because the Apple Watch Series 9’s “carbon-neutral” standing is likely to be, it is clear the model gained mindshare after casting Octavia Spencer as Mother Nature, in a skit that, as of this publication, has garnered 4.3 million views on YouTube. Call it cringe if you need, however the advertising labored.

Though Google and Samsung have made guarantees on their respective progress in making carbon-neutral merchandise, the reality is lots of the strikes made in the direction of an eco-friendly future have been targeted on benefiting the underside line. No one actually thinks eradicating the charger from the field helps to save lots of the setting, nor will watching advertisements for charity make a dent within the steps essential to sluggish local weather change. These manufacturers must outplay Apple on this area, interval, and it should not all be on Fairphone’s shoulders.

Make Apple lame
Personally, although, I feel there’s a fair simpler approach to win again the hearts and minds of, on the very least, some youngsters, and — bonus — it is a tried-and-true methodology. Samsung and Google must place Apple because the model relied on by dad and mom above all else. In the identical means youngsters left behind social networks like Facebook, iOS must be seen as a platform populated by the precise crowd they’re making an attempt to insurgent towards.

That’s simpler mentioned than carried out, after all, and dangers falling into the identical pitfalls earlier advert campaigns have discovered. It’s not practically as simple as enjoying an advert stuffed with senior residents utilizing the iPhone 15 Pro through the Super Bowl — it is a temper that should construct momentum organically. But if you can also make iMessage and FaceTime really feel lame, that standing may go a great distance in altering these harmful tailwinds. Children have at all times pushed again on their dad and mom’ existence, whether or not by way of music, tradition, or hobbies. Why could not that apply to iOS?

Android’s precarious future stays unsure

None of those traits are new issues — dig by way of sufficient of those biannual research, and you will discover Apple’s numbers constantly excessive throughout the board. I needed to flip again to the April 2013 report to seek out iPhone market share for teenagers under 50 p.c. That’s so way back, it was simply two months earlier than I graduated from highschool myself. I watched as dozens of pals from each highschool and faculty ditched Android for iOS, largely due to the precise issues nonetheless affecting the platform a decade later.

Google’s lack of ambition to handle these issues head on — alongside with time wasted on failed iMessage rivals — has positioned your entire Android ecosystem in a poor place as a new technology comes of age. It’s going to require swift motion, creative pondering, and a complete lot of luck to show it round. Regardless of whether or not corporations like Google and Samsung pull it off, I do not assume we’ll be ready one other decade to seek out out.

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