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The Present

Android has won the phone world war

A global survey shows the majority of countries favor Android over iPhone.

Credit: Electronics Hub

In green: Android countries; in grey: iPhone territory; in yellow: the undecideds.

Key Takeaways
  • When Android was launched soon after Apple's own iPhone, Steve Jobs threatened to "destroy" it.
  • Ever since, and across the world, the rivalry between both systems has animated users.
  • Now the results are in: worldwide, consumers clearly prefer one side — and it's not Steve Jobs'.

A woman on her phone in Havana, Cuba. Mobile phones have become ubiquitous the world over — and so has the divide between Android and iPhone users.Credit: Yamil Lage / AFP via Getty Images.

Us versus them: it’s the archetypal binary. It makes the world understandable by dividing it into two competing halves: labor against capital, West against East, men against women.

These maps are the first to show the dividing lines between one of the world’s more recent binaries: Android vs. Apple. Published by Electronics Hub, they are based on a qualitative analysis of almost 350,000 tweets worldwide that presented positive, neutral, and negative attitudes toward Android and/or Apple.

Steve Jobs wanted to go “thermonuclear”

Feelings between Android and Apple were pretty tribal from the get-go. It was Steve Jobs himself who said, when Google rolled out Android a mere ten months after Apple launched the iPhone, “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

Buying a phone is like picking a side in the eternal feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys. Each choice for automatically comes with an in-built arsenal of arguments against.

If you are an iPhone person, you appreciate the sleekness and simplicity of its design, and you are horrified by the confusing mess that is the Android operating system. If you are an Android aficionado, you pity the iPhone user, a captive of an overly expensive closed ecosystem, designed to extract money from its users.

Even without resorting to those extremes, many of us will recognize which side of the dividing line that we are on. Like the American Civil War, that line runs through families and groups of friends, but that would be a bit confusing to chart geographically. To un-muddle the information, these maps zoom out to state and country level.

If the contest is based on the number of countries, Android wins. In all, 74 of the 142 countries surveyed prefer Android (in green on the map). Only 65 favor Apple (colored grey). That’s a 52/48 split, which may not sound like a decisive vote, but it was good enough for Boris Johnson to get Brexit done (after he got breakfast done, of course).

And yes, math-heads: 74 plus 65 is three short of 142. Belarus, Fiji, and Peru (in yellow on the map) could not decide which side to support in the Global Phone War.

What about the United States, home of both the Android and the iPhone? Another victory for the former, albeit a slightly narrower one: 30.16 percent of the tweets about Android were positive versus just 29.03 percent of the ones about Apple.

United States: Texas surrounded!

Credit: Electronics Hub

There can be only one winner per state, though, and that leads to this preponderance of Android logos. Frankly, it’s a relief to see a map showing a visceral divide within the United States that is not the coasts versus the heartland.

  • Apple dominates in 19 states: a solid Midwestern bloc, another of states surrounding Texas, the Dakotas and California, plus North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
  • And that’s it. The other 32 are the United States of Android. You can drive from Seattle to Miami without straying into iPhone territory. But no stopovers in Dallas or Houston – both are behind enemy lines!

North America: strongly leaning toward Android

Credit: Electronics Hub

Only eight of North America’s 21 countries surveyed fall into the Apple category.

  • The U.S. and Canada lean Android, while Mexico goes for the iPhone.
  • Central America is divided, but here too Android wins hands down, 5-2.

Europe: Big Five divided

Credit: Electronics Hub

In Europe, Apple wins, with 20 countries preferring the iPhone, 17 going for Android, and Belarus sitting on the fence.

  • Of Western Europe’s Big Five markets, three (UK, Germany, Spain) are pro-Android, and two (France, Italy) are pro-Apple.
  • Czechia and Slovakia are an Apple island in the Android sea that is Central Europe. Glad to see there is still something the divorcees can agree on.

South America: almost even

Credit: Electronics Hub

In South America, the divide is almost even.

  • Five countries prefer Android, four Apple, and one is undecided.
  • In Peru, both Android- and Apple-related tweets were 25 percent positive.

Africa: watch out for Huawei

Credit: Electronics Hub

In Africa, Android wins by 17 countries versus Apple’s 15.

  • There’s a solid Android bloc running from South Africa via DR Congo all the way to Ethiopia.
  • iPhone countries are scattered throughout the north (Algeria), west (Guinea), east (Somalia), and south (Namibia).

Huawei — increasingly popular across the continent — could soon dramatically change the picture in Africa. Currently still running on Android, the Chinese phone manufacturer has just launched its own operating system, called Harmony.

Middle East: Iran vs. Saudi Arabia (again)

Credit: Electronics Hub

In the Middle East and Central Asia, Android wins 8 countries to Apple’s 6.

  • But it’s complicated. One Turkish tweeter wondered how it is that iPhones seem more popular in the Asian half of Istanbul, while Android phones prevailed in the European part of the city.
  • The phone divide matches up with the region’s main geopolitical one: Iran prefers Android, Saudi Arabia the iPhone.

Asia-Pacific: Apple on the periphery

Credit: Electronics Hub

Another wafer-thin majority for Android in the Asia-Pacific region: 13 countries versus 12 for Apple — and one abstention (Fiji).

  • The two giants of the Asian mainland, India and China, are both Android countries. Apple countries are on the periphery.
  • And if India is Android, its rival Pakistan must be Apple. Same with North and South Korea.

Experts point to the fact that both operating systems are becoming more alike with every new generation as a potential resolution to the conflict. But as any student of human behavior will confirm: smaller differences will only exacerbate the rivalry between both camps.

Maps taken from Electronics Hub, reproduced with kind permission.

Strange Maps #1096

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

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