The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


Androids for the east side, iPhones for the west

Where do people use iPhones, Android phones, Blackberries, and other devices? In our region, it appears Android is far more popular on the east side of the region than the west:

Tweets from iPhones are in red, Android in green, Blackberry purple. Image from MapBox.
Click to toggle: All devices  iPhone only  Android only

Tom MacWright, who has written for Greater Greater Washington about open laws, made the tool for MapBox using 280 million Tweets, each of which has information about which kind of device the tweeter was using.

I initially expected to see a big blob of purple (Blackberry) in the federal core, but there is none; probably this is a combination of many federal agencies moving to iPhones, and federal workers not using their government phones for tweeting.

But really, these maps look awfully similar to the same maps of DC's demographic divides:

Left: Race and ethnicity. Image from Wikimedia. Right: College degrees. Image by Rob Pitingolo.

Update: Several commenters noted that the combined map seems to overlay iPhones over Androids, so green areas are really areas with Androids but fewer iPhones. I've added a toggle to switch between the combined map, iPhone-only, and Android-only.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Wow. Very Cool.

by turtleshell on Jun 20, 2013 4:27 pm • linkreport

Lots of tweets while on the road. Hopefully they are from passengers and not drivers!!

by Allan on Jun 20, 2013 4:28 pm • linkreport

These results would also depend on how many tweets were sent with location information attached, since that is something you can turn off. Right?

by MetMet on Jun 20, 2013 4:33 pm • linkreport

I really wish map designers would make these things more colorblind friendly. The constant use of red and green on these things really annoys me.

by thequeenmary on Jun 20, 2013 4:36 pm • linkreport

I rotated the colors. Does this work:

by David Alpert on Jun 20, 2013 4:39 pm • linkreport

I find it interesting how Apple shared devices seem tied to status and economic makeup. They are typically the more expensive of the brands so the trend would align toward those of wealthier individuals. Android platforms are more varied and tend to be cheaper than the Apple brand.

However I feel I'd probably skew the data since I do well off financially but I'm east of the river. Though that data wouldn't show on this graph since the reason I greatly prefer the Android platform over Apple is that it offers more openness and more flexibility than some i-device.

I wonder what percentage of people consider the Apple Vs Android due to open-data options as opposed to financial reasons.

by Swftkat on Jun 20, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

Much better. Thanks.

by thequeenmary on Jun 20, 2013 4:57 pm • linkreport


Definitely me. I adhere to Cory Doctorow's mantra, "screws not glue." And at the very least, I need a phone I can pull the battery out of. Android is that.

by MetroDerp on Jun 20, 2013 4:59 pm • linkreport

good question, Swftkat. I'm one of those (apparently) rare west of the Anacostia types who is well off who has an Android. That's because I use T-Mobile as my carrier and they only recently started carrying iPhones. Even so, an iPhone seems exorbitantly expensive and my Android does all the things I need it to do.

I'm terrified of how clearly major roadways in our region are "lit up" by tweets. Yikes.

by Birdie on Jun 20, 2013 5:09 pm • linkreport

Twitter is blocked on my fed gov blackberry.

by ah on Jun 20, 2013 5:11 pm • linkreport

I'm with swftkat, MetroDerp, and Birdie. I refused to get an iPhone at first because it was a closed platform. Now, Nexus phones are cheaper and better anyway. We do have an iPad, though, because at least when we got it there wasn't a good enough Android alternative.

by David Alpert on Jun 20, 2013 5:13 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure if this map shows a actual divide. It appears that the red of the iPhone overlaps the teal of the Android devices so it looks like there is a stark contrast.

Could it be that more people prefer iPhones and not that rich or poor or blacks or whites have a preference?

by Randall M. on Jun 20, 2013 5:19 pm • linkreport

For those of you worried about Tweets from the road, isn't it just as likely that buildings with higher densities are located on main roads, and this is why they appear on the maps?

by Anonymous10 on Jun 20, 2013 5:21 pm • linkreport

I agree with Randall, I think this map looks more contrasted than it really is. I think it is distorted by the contrast of the colors used - if you use the tool and look at each color individually, it is hard to see a "divide." Android usage appears to be more even everywhere, but iPhone usage is more concentrated.

by MLD on Jun 20, 2013 5:28 pm • linkreport

"Could it be that more people prefer iPhones and not that rich or poor or blacks or whites have a preference?"

No. Android has over a 50% marketshare. iPhones are the single most common smartphone model, but Android is the most common OS.

by Another Nick on Jun 20, 2013 5:35 pm • linkreport

It could be that the kind of people who tweet with location information enabled prefer iPhones. Because that's who this map is measuring.

by MLD on Jun 20, 2013 5:36 pm • linkreport

#tweetingonthebeltway #yolo

by nick on Jun 20, 2013 5:56 pm • linkreport

@Another Nick:

That may be true nationally but I'm not so sure that figure applies locally. I think we can say, based on pictures and not raw data, that more people prefer iPhones even if there are more phones that run Android nationally.

The map implies that there is some sort of divide based on race or income but I don't think that's the case. I don't think the implied argument should be that people on the east side of 16th Street prefer Android-based products because those products are less expensive. I know many people who love that Android is open and allows for them to create and sell apps more easily. Clearly, that's not seen on this map.

Maybe people just tweet less on Android devices because they are building apps and iPhone users have nothing to do but tweet. If you were to look at who owns Apple or Android-based devises, I would imagine that that the picture would look more balanced.

by Randall M. on Jun 20, 2013 6:05 pm • linkreport

Swftkat et al: You'll find that Android is less and less open; Google Play has all the things you dislike about the App Store, namely the ability to retroactively remove applications, etc. What Google doesn't constrain the handset manufacturers do, blocking phones from upgrading their OS etc.

And then there are Android's copious trojan horse security problems. iOS's sandboxing also means one application cannot compromise another so easily.

I'm just saying, it's not all status and aesthetics (though don't dismiss design as a component of realised functionality). The condescension of Android users over iPhone owners' motivations would be more annoying if it weren't so obviously defensive.

Cheers :-)

by Rahul Mereand-Sinha on Jun 20, 2013 6:05 pm • linkreport

Deceptive map, after looking at the link with the on-off toggling ability.

It's layered iPhone on TOP of Android. And both of those on TOP of Blackberry.

A dot on a lower layer is completely hidden by a dot on a higher layer.

What this says is that there aren't a lot of iPhones to the east. It actually says almost nothing about Android to the west when layered.

by Joey on Jun 20, 2013 6:23 pm • linkreport

Nexus 4, unlocked. Never drinking the Apple kool-aid. Does this post really say much about iPhone vs. Android, or does it really say more about people who use twitter?

by spookiness on Jun 20, 2013 6:28 pm • linkreport

Hwow Joey is right. This who chart is all about the toggle! Looking at the OS individually, this says very little about any divide.

by Tom A. on Jun 20, 2013 6:42 pm • linkreport

OK, I added a toggle to make it easy to compare the full map with the iPhone-only and Android-only maps.

by David Alpert on Jun 20, 2013 6:57 pm • linkreport

They really like iPhones up in college park.

by drumz on Jun 20, 2013 7:16 pm • linkreport

What type of Blackberry is the purple the new BlackBerry 10 devices, the old devices or all devices and what happen to Windows Phone ?

by kk on Jun 20, 2013 9:03 pm • linkreport

Could one of the reasons for the divide be the 2-year contract requirement for iPhones? Correct me if I'm wrong, but pre-paid plans offer Androids; not iPhones.

by Daniel on Jun 21, 2013 8:07 am • linkreport

Proof College Park is the Downtown of something in PG county!

by Richard Bourne on Jun 21, 2013 9:11 am • linkreport

Interesting map. Perhaps this divide is more a result of the rich having to keep up with each other by getting the latest and greatest new toy, while the rest of us don't care and look for value. Just a thought.

by czero on Jun 21, 2013 9:49 am • linkreport

@Anonymous10 - I don't belief your idea of the density along the Beltway. I can follow it the entire loop around DC, including across area of MD & NoVa that are fairly empty near the Beltway. Click the main image above to view the entire map and it becomes even more obvious!


by Thad on Jun 21, 2013 10:18 am • linkreport

I'm always surprised when people put so much weight on the upfront cost of the phone when it's such a small fraction of the total cost of the phone+plan. A typical $80/month plan means you'll spend $1920 over the course of two years on the plan. Whether you spend $200 on the phone or get the phone for free seems like a pretty minor swing in total cost of the phone+plan.

Of course, if you're not getting a phone subsidy, then the phones are a much bigger out of pocket expense.

Also, I've only used Androids because they have a certain capability that I need for work but hate them. The OS is fine but the phones are all crap. For example, an Android update bricked my Samsung S2 and it wasn't Android's fault.

by Falls Church on Jun 21, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

I see first mover and wealth. iPhone was first and was the status symbol, and now the West side has stuck with them. I kept the office BB because of its reliability, then went with Android because of greater flexibility, better price, and friends at Google. Drooling over the new MacBook Air, tho!

by SJE on Jun 21, 2013 11:11 am • linkreport

Maybe this map merely says that iPhone users are more likely to be self-absorbed Twitterati.

by SJE on Jun 21, 2013 11:13 am • linkreport

I also seem stats showing that Apple Android skew by age/gender/and politics. All interesting. Plus I feel like more workplaces are issuing Iphones rather than BBs now?

by Alan B. on Jun 21, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

I see College Park up there lit up with iPhones! It's like an outpost in enemy territory :P

by Kunal on Jun 21, 2013 2:20 pm • linkreport

@ Falls Church

Subsidies don't matter at all unless you are on one of the few carriers in the US that gives out discounts if you bring your own phone. The the US there is T-Mobile and a few MVNO's that do whereas AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, America Movil (Simple Mobile, Tracfone, Net10, Straight Talk) the biggest four excluding T-Mobile do not.

I have lived in other countries where you actually get a discount there it makes sense. In the USA you dont get a discount and you are still stuck in a 2 year contract the other GSM carrier AT&T gives no discount for not being under a contract or paying for a phone in full retail price it makes no sense.

by kk on Jun 21, 2013 9:43 pm • linkreport

Apple products do not align with someone's wealth. Apple is a company whose success is built from great marketing. And with that great marketing they have been able to compile brand-loyal customers who want to have perceived status (real or otherwise). It is easy to say that it is aligned with wealth because Apple products tend to be more expensive. Just because a product is expensive does not mean people who buy those products are richer or wealthier. It indicates that people who buy those products are making a choice and willing to save and then spend their money on those products. Sometimes buying expensive products help a person gain perceived status (either that you can afford to buy expensive products or that you make a choice to save and then spend on expensive products). Apple products buy you status. Then there is the argument of the open versus closed systems, which each have pros and cons. While these types of maps are interesting on the surface, they really do offer very little in the way of substantive analyses, other than brewing a lively discussion.

by DC on Jun 22, 2013 1:19 pm • linkreport

It would seem that all groups like Android, but only those with good credit, and therefore access to wireless contracts, tend to have iPhones.

by anonanonanon on Jun 24, 2013 2:00 am • linkreport

The demographic map is dated 2000, and does not reflect gentrification of areas east of Rock Creek. Is a newer version available ?

by WB on Jun 24, 2013 3:19 pm • linkreport

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