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In Mobile Payments, the Developers Are “Apples,” While the Users Are “Androids”

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Justin Paterno, a manager of the investing website, StockTwits, recently observed that “mobile is starting to eat the financial world.” While there seems to be little doubt that mobile is the platform of the future, all this “eating” seems to be taking place at two different tables.

Users who fancy white linen table cloths and fine bone china might prefer to dine at the “house of Apple.” For more budget-conscious diners, Android appears to be the venue of choice.

Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS dominate the global mobile operating system market, with a combined 96% market share. Yet the price differential between iOS iPhones and Android-equiped smartphones, such as those manufactured by Samsung, has increased in recent years. Along the way, Apple’s iPhone has solidified its position in the high end of the smartphone market.

Pew Research Center’s study of demographic differences among smartphone users underscores Apple’s high-end market dominance. Across income and education categories, there’s only one group for which the percentage of iPhone users exceeds the percentage of Android users: college-educated individuals, and those whose household income exceeds $75,000. According to the study, half of all cellphone users with a household income above $150,000 say they own an iPhone.

What does all this say about the type of smartphones used by most Silicon Valley software developers and venture capitalists (VCs)? US News & World Report cited a median salary of $93,000 for software developers, with the highest-paid 10 percent earning $144,000. Estimates on Quora.com place the average annual compensation for venture capital associates at about $200,000. So most of the folks who develop, or invest in, mobile Web services are probably iPhone users.

When one turns to the consumers who make payments on their smartphones, one is likely to encounter a lot more Android owners. iOS-supported Apple and Android-equipped Samsung have been running “neck and neck” in terms of smartphone market share. With iPhones dominating the high end of the smartphone market, it’s not surprising to encounter a lot of Android users below the upper-income stratum of the population.

Android has emerged as the mobile operating system of the masses. For one example of this, consider Card.com, a service that offers prepaid Mastercard and Visa debit cards. At a recent event, hosted by the New York Fintech Startups Meetup, Card.com’s CFO observed that 90 percent of that company’s mobile signups had been completed on Android devices. Rather than focusing on wealthier individuals, Card.com targets the “90 percent of people out there” with more limited savings.

The use of bitcoin-payment mobile apps also appears to be a mass-market, rather than a high-end, consumer phenomenon. Such is the case in the wild world of Las Vegas. The diners and gamblers who use bitcoin are more likely to be found in Sin City’s Downtown gambling district — known for its more moderately-priced casinos and restaurants. In contrast, one would expect to find Silicon Valley VCs and developers hanging out at the Las Vegas Strip’s high-end Bellagio and Wynn.

The D Las Vegas Casino Hotel and Golden Gate Hotel & Casino in Downtown Las Vegas recently began accepting bitcoin. The D casino’s manager has observed the most bitcoin spending at the casino’s casual eatery. He believes it’s the restaurant’s “low pricing that is making bitcoin purchases more common there than at the other restaurants.”

The Las Vegas example is anecdotal. However, it illustrates an interesting contrast between the behavior of iPhone-toting tech developers and financiers, who are creating new mobile-payment apps, and the behavior of Android-connected consumers, who are using their smartphones to shop and spend.

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