The war rages on, and “free” is just another word for something more to pay

He which hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart; his passport shall be made. 

The iOS/Android feud has always been intense. Coke v. Pepsi intense. Dodgers v. Giants intense. The most polite of your friends will let a disparaging comment fly if you switch from one platform to the other (as I recently did, to my shame), and each camp believes with the fervor of zealots that their platform/apps/design philosophy are the best.

Fred Vogelstein has written an illuminating book called Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went To War And Started A Revolution, and gives us a glimpse into the complex machinations behind one of the biggest corporate rivalries in history.

But if you’re just a user, or even a lowly tech blogger, it’s hard to argue with numbers when you’re trying to determine which side is winning. And the numbers are where it gets really interesting. Android has a commanding 85% market share, with iOS at just 11.9%. But that’s not even close to the full story. See, all previous studies have indicated that iOS users are more engaged, more active, and spend more money than their Android counterparts, making numbers of handsets not really such an accurate determination of power. This week we saw the statistics bear this out again: Adobe Digital Index reports that iOS represents a full 65% of app launches, with the average iOS app used twice as long an Android app.

So why are iOS users so much more engaged? iOS users spend more, consume more data, and are more fiercely loyal to their brand. You could posit that since iOS devices are strictly luxury-market, there’s something in the size of the wallet that contributes to a user’s desire to engage with apps for longer periods of time and their ability to spend more on those apps. It also allows them to become brand evangelicals since they maintain loyalty based on name alone rather than on price point. Gigaom notes that part of the reason for the disparity may lie in the fact that historically Android users are much more interested in free apps, suggesting our wallet size idea may not be so far off.

Free! Get?

We talked about free-to-play games last week, but this isn’t a topic that’s going away anytime soon. These games can be misleading if you’re not paying attention, because what you think you’re getting gratis will, in short order, ask you to spend money to continue playing. And where “offers in-app purchases” used to be the only indication that you were getting yourself into a world of ego depletion hurt, the free-to-play times, they are a-changing.

In July, Google stopped labelling free-to-play apps “free” under pressure from the European Commission (because in Europe they just don’t stand for that nonsense). Apple was asked to do the same but demurred, claiming that iOS 8’s “Ask to Buy” feature was sufficient. Everyone (including the US Federal Trade Commission, who has since sued both Apple and Amazon for charging parents for unauthorized purchases made by their children) disagreed. Apple paid about $100 million to settle that suit, but that didn’t solve the problem of millions of fingers tapping “free” and being misled.

Enter “Get”. “Get” is the new download button label for free-to-play games in all of Apple’s App Stores worldwide. Apple hopes that “Get” will dispel confusion, but it’s hard to think of anything more confusing since regardless of price, tapping that button “gets” you an app. It seems like a half-hearted response to a growing issue, but I guess “This is Going to Cost You” is a little long. Go get ‘em, Apple.

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