As recently as 2020, Optomizing’s James Richardson joked that every household in Australia seemed to be automatically issued with at least one iPhone. Even then, though, times were changing. While Apple iPhones remained the most popular brand, Android was drawing alongside iOS as the most popular operating system overall.
Over the subsequent three years, the trend has continued and today, more than 50 percent of the 22 million or so mobile phones in regular use Down Under use Android.
Changing user demographics
Back in 2015, Australian smartphone users were in the grip of iPhone fever. But the key difference has less to do with users changing their habits than with the user demographics themselves changing so profoundly.
The fact is that the Gen-Z fascination with iPhones shows no sign of abating. As one reviewer put it, three out of four young Australians are still crushing on the iPhone. Explaining why is a different matter, but put simply, it’s a triumph of branding on Apple’s part. An iPhone is like a BMW or a designer jacket. Even the user, driver, or wearer is aware that he or she is paying for a brand as opposed to any real superiority in performance. But that is a fact that fashion-conscious and crowd-following Gen Z-ers seem willing to accept for the most part.
The difference is that while these fashion conscious and crowd-following Gen Z-ers are still a significant sector of the smart phone buying market, they no longer dominate or shape it. Put simply, practically everyone in Australia is a mobile phone user in 2023, and those born in the 1980s and earlier have less interest in what is cool and fashionable as long as it gets the job done.
Simpler online gaming habits in the casino heartland
We have mentioned that there are few material differences performance-wise between Android and iOS. Dedicated gamers will know that there are some differences, in as much as some games are released on iOS first and Android later.
But when it comes to Australians aged 35 and above, this is a moot point. The most popular gaming categories encompass casual games like Wordle, which are available across either operating system and games that involve online gambling for real money such as pokies and blackjack. Australian mobile casino players almost always use browser apps, so the question of iOS or Android becomes a moot point.
Apple losing its shine
There is a third factor that is contributing to this shift from iOS to Android. Yes, Apple was the first to market, and the iPhone was the original smartphone. But that was more than 15 years ago. MySpace was the first social media platform, but within a decade others had studied what it did and came up with ways to do it better.
In short, Apple is facing ever-increasing competition from diverse directions. It’s not just Samsung, as a like for like premium product, on the competing operating system. There are also competing brands from China and South Korea that are much cheaper but are at least close enough to the big brands to make little difference. Again, it is a situation that is familiar to anyone who has observed the new car market, where brands like Genesis are challenging the established premium players like BMW and Lexus.
That’s not to say that Apple will be breaking into too much of a panic, at least not yet. The brand has by far the highest loyalty rating of any phone manufacturer. This mirrors the laptop market, where Apple users tend to stick with MacBooks once they are accustomed to them, but users of other brands like HP, Dell or Lenovo are likely to switch between those brands.
The real question is whether those Gen-Z buyers will remain loyal into their 30s and beyond. Whatever happens, it’s likely to happen in Australia first, so keep watching this space.