Do the rich tweet differently?

I’m not sure what to make of this article in Atlantic Cities about the apparent correlation of iPhone use and income. In short, rich people tend to use iPhones, while poorer ones use Android devices. (Blackberry and Windows are in there somewhere, but way below the two dominant players.)

The article is based on a mapping of tweets from mobile devices, which by itself is an interesting testament to the somewhat egalitarian nature of Twitter. In any populated area there seem to be lots of tweets from all areas.The iPhone/Android split isn’t dramatic, but there does seem to be a noticeable difference in the geographic distribution of the iPhone and Android tweeters, that roughly correlates to income distribution.

For example, here is the Android (green) and iPhone (red) map of metro Detroit, which seems to show a suburban bias for the iPhone tweeters.

DetroitThe Atlantic article suggests that this correlation has to do with the high cost of iPhones, but I’m not sure that’s the whole story. Most people in the US, at any income level, buy subsidized phones. Those subsidies remove most of the price differences between iPhone and comparable Android devices. Of course, there are many more options for free (on contract) Android devices that can explain part of this seeming income divide.

I suspect, though, that there’s more going on here than richer people buying more expensive phones. I think the iPhone vs. Android split resembles the Starbucks / Dunkin Donuts divide, which gets into issues of education, class, and perceived levels of sophistication and “cool.” As I wrote earlier, we heard a hint of this at a recent Mobile Monday panel, where the head of mobile at the Smithsonian discussed how “culture consumers” who visit museums and museum web sites, are predominantly iPhone (and iPad) users.

I find this possible cultural platform divide a bit disturbing, but I’m not sure if there’s anything to be done about it. Nothing in tech lasts forever, so it’s possible that this trend won’t be relevant in a few years. I’d love to read your comments on this article and this issue, and the possible implications for app developers, enterprises, and society.

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