Men and women tend to use technology in similar, yet intrinsically different, ways. From app downloads to mobile shopping habits to marketed hardware, there are gender differences in how we respond to perceived uses of technology. While it’s certainly appropriate to track unbiased measurements of how we use technology differently, it’s unfortunate that in this day and age there are still misconceptions on how gender and technology actually work; in other words, just because women tend to use more shopping apps does not necessarily mean that a pink tablet with preloaded recipe planning applications is going to go over well. Correlation does not imply causation.
Apps and gender
Recent data from analytics firm Apsalar offered some valuable insights on how women use apps as opposed to men. Pulled from a data pool of 500 million unique users across Android and iOS, there were definitely some intriguing insights pulled from standard developer tracking metrics (how often the app is opened, what features are used, what kind of network is being utilized, birth dates, and yes, gender):
- Women install 40% more apps than men, buy 17% more paid apps, and pay 87% more for those apps
- The top app categories for women are social media, news, productivity, lifestyle and books
- The top app categories for men are business, games, navigation, travel, health, and fitness
- Men lead in mobile gaming and in-app spending. They use business-related apps 85% more than women, navigation apps 40% more, games 61% more and health and fitness 10% more.
- Women use social media apps a whopping 600% more than men, news apps 90% more, productivity apps 89% more, lifestyle apps 64% more, and books 10% more.
Another study conducted by analytics group Swirl.com found that 53% of women surveyed have between one and five shopping apps on their smartphones at any given time. Half of the women in the study responded that they would share their location via smartphone for a good coupon, personalized offer, or bargain sale.
Yet another study from analytics firm Flurry discovered that men and women spend their time pretty evenly on freemium mobile games, with men leading in in-game purchases by 58% and spending an average of 31% more per transaction. Men tend to pick the more competitive games, while women are more drawn to games that are ongoing and social; for example, Words With Friends or Bubble Blaster, both games that can be played indefinitely and picked up at a moment’s notice with zero preparation.
What do these three very different studies lead us to believe? On the surface, it would seem obvious that men and women are quite different when it comes to app usage. It is also revealing that different development approaches would best be utilized for different apps, not necessarily targeting towards one gender or the other, but taking different usage patterns into account as part of the overall development strategy.
That’s what savvy developers do with this kind of data. But – and there’s always a “but” – then we’ve got this kind of stuff:
The “Floral Kiss”: A brand new computer issued in 2012 that came in shades of Feminine Pink, Elegant White, and Luxury Brown, it was meant to be the “girl” version of a PC. This machine included such features as a bedazzled Caps Lock key, a built-in daily horoscope app, and other custom designed features "planned and developed primarily under the direction of female employees". In addition to these exciting components, the case was constructed with an elegant and refined gradation with gold trim, and it features a flip latch that can easily open the display—even by users with long fingernails." An observant Jezebel.com writer noticed that the number of words the Floral Kiss’s press release devoted to the technical specs was a measly 19, while the “pretty shiny stuff” got several hundred.
The ePad Femme: Women who might be intimidated by the average tablet will love the ePad Femme, an 8-inch device that comes preloaded with yoga, grocery shopping, weight control, and cooking apps. The press release lauds this machine as the “the first tablet specifically for ladies”, and “makes a perfect gadget for a woman who might find difficulties in terms of downloading these applications and it is a quick reference.” This tablet is primarily marketed towards women in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where feminist blogger Eman Al Nafjan noted in the Jerusalem Post stated that women are “extremely tech savvy” and “spend a lot of time online” – so a tablet that comes preloaded with apps is not necessarily a great marketing ploy.
Bic for Her: While it’s not technology per se, this pen marketed towards women and “designed to fit comfortably in a woman’s hand” exemplifies the cluelessness that gender-specific technology can display. Hundreds of scathingly ironic reviews at Amazon.com for this pen give us some hilarious insight into how quickly this kind of focus can go wrong:
“Before BIC for Her Ballpoint Pens came into my life, I was really floundering. Now holding a pen doesn't hurt my dainty, fragile woman fingers and the pretty pink color keeps my empty mind more engaged. My test scores in math and science have gone up too! Honestly, I was failing those classes because I couldn't seem to get the knack for using those complicated male pens. With the BIC for her pen now in my life, I have another use for paper besides using it to stuff my bra in order to snag a future husband. “
The gender gap – still there, but narrowing
Even though gender differences definitely do exist, is it appropriate for developers, marketers, and other consumer-facing entities to exploit these variances, preying on stereotypes to make a quick buck? Of course not. And as we can see from the above examples, they tend to go drastically wrong.
Is gender something that developers should take into account when creating apps? Or is it merely another demographic to be measured? This is a conversation that is just getting started as the app ecosystem is still in its infancy. What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.