Your choice of smartphone may affect what other people think of you—and say something about your own personality, as well. In a study presented last week at the British Psychological Society Social Psychology Section annual conference, participants viewed Android users as having greater levels of honesty, humility, agreeableness, and openness than iPhone users. They were also seen as less extroverted.
When the researchers performed personality assessments on both Android and iPhone users, most of these perceptions did not hold true. Android users did, however, rank higher in honesty and humility.
The study was led by Heather Shaw, a psychology doctoral student at the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom. Shaw notes that while Android and iPhones account for more than 95 percent of all smartphones sold worldwide, individual differences between the two types of consumers have never been studied in this way. That’s surprising, she says, considering how much research there is on how other purchasing decisions can predict personality traits.
She and her colleagues performed two experiments, first asking 240 participants to answer questions about characteristics they associated with users of each smartphone brand. Then, they analyzed personality questionnaires from 530 Android and iPhone users to see if those stereotypes held up.
In addition to the differences in honesty and humility, the researchers found that women were twice as likely as men to choose an iPhone over an Android. People who scored high on “avoidance of similarity”—meaning that they don’t like having the same products as others—were more likely to have an Android, while people who thought it was more important to have a high-status phone were more likely to choose iPhones.
Shaw says she wasn't surprised to find such differences between the two groups. "iPhone and Android smartphones have different apps, technical specs, and functionalities, which appeal respectively to the users of each smartphone brand due to their personality," she says. She also says it's possible that people start to embody the semantics and characteristics of the technologies they own. "So if you buy an iPhone, over time you might start acting like a typical iPhone users."
Brand choice is the most basic level of smartphone personalization, Shaw says, and her study shows that even this can hold clues as to a user's personality. There are also plenty of other ways users can customize their smartphones—with colors, cases, photos, and music, for example. “Many of us don’t like it when other people use our phones because it can reveal so much about us,” she points out.
Further research could explore other ways that smartphones can hint at important details about their users—like, for example, studying the specific apps people download. “It is becoming more and more apparent that smartphones are becoming a mini digital version of the user,” she says—a fact that could have implications in the fields of psychology, marketing, user privacy, and more.
Shaw adds, though, that it's still not fair to assume anything about a person based solely on their smartphone choice. "Humans are very complex, and you can never truly understand what a person is like from one piece of information alone," she says.