by Cesare Rocchi

On Archetypes of Smartphone Users

by Cesare Rocchi


A semi-serious overview of smartphone users, with some truth hidden behind jokes and some suggestions on who to target when building an app. Slightly biased towards iOS. Enjoy.

The unconscious iPhone owner

This guy has bought the iPhone just to emulate the people surrounding him. “He has it, I have to have it too!”. These are the kind of guys that refer to applications as “options”. “Have you installed the Twitter option? I did it too”. Fortunately they didn’t use the word “plugin”, it would have been even more offensive. These people hardly find a way to buy an application. They have Facebook installed because a friend assisted them. They feel free because they can access Facebook while queueing at the cashier and they feel upset if their timeline does not contain new posts every ten seconds. For them, the iPhone is Facebook, and the suffer of the “missing out” syndrome. Don’t target them, they won’t even know how to open the app store and buy your app. Target their smarter friends and hope for word of mouth.

The Smarter Friend

This is the guy that has the iPhone at least since 2010. He knows how to download the most known apps, how to rearrange the screen in folders, how to set the background picture. He is the one that may have asked you assistance when he bought it and he needed to migrate all the data from his old phone, presumably a Nokia N95. He know words like iCloud although he doesn’t always use them appropriately. He is the one that tells you about the upcoming release of the new iOS version, while you had it running on your phone for a month or so. He jailbroke the iPhone once and complained a lot once he found out that the official update scrambled all the arrangement of icons that he carefully organized. Unfortunately this guy has an iPhone because of the status it represents. He just buys free applications, mostly games, and he is fine with ads. He will probably buy a 1.99 app once a year and feel guilty about it, because there were free options. You can hope to be the author of that application, but don’t count on it too much. I have a friend like this. Once he asked me once about an application to manage passwords. I said 1password. He went: “you crazy!”. Enough said. He is smart, but not smart enough to spend money to save stress and/or time.

The Fake Poor

This guy can afford an iPhone for sure and probably many applications that will improve his life, but he has a lot of spare time. He once jailbroke (or spirited) his iPhone and discovered the universe of Cydia. He installed four (yes four) different GPS applications, just for the sake of having them. After a while he realized they were too many and took too much space on the hard drive. As the smarter friend above, he complained about an official update that ruined his job. He once bought an iPad, again just for the sake of possessing it. After realizing he could not watch movies downloaded from bittorrent he sold it. He now has a subpar unbranded tablet. He downloads torrents, dumps movies on an sd card and stick it into the tablet. He is now happy he can watch the movies downloaded illegaly everywhere, especially on a plane, even if the battery of his tablet lasts less than the length of a movie. This is the kind of guy that wants everyhing in an app and wants it for free. He will invest hours of his time to find an app that is similar to yours but free and he will shove it in your face. If he is a friend, love him, but don’t consider him as a target for your business. He’ll never buy it. The fake poor might even be the owner of an Android phone. In this case you are doomed. He probably has a Galaxy Ace and if you have built something targeting a Samsung III kind of phone, he will break your balls about why he can’t run your app. If you’ll make it compatible with his crappy phone he won’t buy it anyway. You might buy a beer to this guy, but he’ll never buy you one back. So why should he buy your app?

The Manager

This guy works in a big company. Back in the day, he and his colleagues had a BlackBerry. Before the crisis, and to look cooler, the whole company switched to the iPhone. He is likely to have a 3GS still running iOS3. If you are developing an app for this company be ready to say goodbye to ARC and prepare yourself to write “release” pretty often (“… = nil;” might be appropriate as well). The 3GS was unboxed, set up and since then never ever connected to iTunes again. If you connect it, be ready to a synchronization that lasts 40 minutes at least. The App store application was probably opened once. All the icons are in their original position. The phone has been used to make calls for 1k hours or so. The majority of the finger prints is on the Mail app. Definitely not a perfect target for your app.

The Blogger

This is the guy that lives on the edge. He has downloaded so many applications they don’t even fit on a 64Gb iPhone. He does not use folders, to start an app he uses search. His home screen changes frequently. His mail box is full of pitches. He keeps on telling he is human and can’t address them all. He really likes to test beta versions but when he finally finds the time his provisioning profile has expired for sure. He now adores Tokens, until the next big thing comes out. If you pitch him about your app, don’t wait for a quick reply. It might take longer than a week, or forever. You can study the tastes of this guy by reading his posts (there will be many) and his appearances at conferences/podcasts. If he likes your app he will talk about it and mention it in more than one post. Likely he will play “hard to get”, but once you get him it will be easier to get in touch.

The Cool Designer

He bought Sparrow and Tweetbot the second they were released. He is now very upset by the destiny of Sparrow. These days he likes a lot to talk about skeuo vs flat. If he leans toward the second he has played with a Windows phone and he says he is “planning to buy it”, but he already knows he is gonna stick with an iPhone. He thinks in Photoshop, although he has probably tried Sketch. He enjoys getting into the beta testing of some cool application. He buys apps, lots of them. He tweets about apps he likes but he is very picky. Very suggested, and high, target.

The Poser

If you are into surf you know the poser is a guy that looks like a surfer but has never ridden anything other than a pony carousel. Yet, he looks and behaves as a surfer. This guys has an iPhone and never forgets to put in on the table during meetings or dinners. He has all the last and coolest applications. He is a buyer, but not a user. If you are just looking to sell your app he might buy it, open it once and then forget it. Are you sure you want that for your app?

The Hacker

He jailbroke every version of iOS. These days is probably angry at iOS 6.1.3. He does not care about graphics. Once he has a way to open an ssh connection to the phone, he is fine. He has probably one or more android phones. He calls them “droids” and he enjoys playing with ROMs. He has recompiled the kernel of linux tons of times, and spent weekends compiling Gentoo back in the day. He is now intrigued by the Ubuntu phone and the Firefox OS (a bit worried about carriers though). Not sure if he is going to buy your app, whatever it is. He will probably ask you for the source code and if you say no he will decompile it and publish the code online.

###The Minimalist He has probably owned an iPhone, but now he is in love the the tiles of Windows 8. Once he had the iPhone he had at most two screens of applications, not more. He dislikes skeuo stuff, for he thinks everything has to be flat. He has a small closet, which includes 2 pairs of shoes, 1 pair of jeans and 5 t-shirts. If you build an app that is valuable to him, saves him some time/stress and has a flat UI, he might stick with it forever and spread the word. Very suggested target, a bit hard to get.

The Unconsciously Persuaded

This guy had a Nokia 3220 and was happy. His phone died and he went to the mall to buy a similar one. The salary of the seller was tied to the number of Samsung sold. Our guy went out of the mall with a Galaxy Ace, or even a Samsung S3. This is the kind of guy that contributes to the Android market share (so adored by Eric Schmit) but he is not even aware of the existence of applications or “the internet in your pocket”. He might download your app by chance, browsing the play store by accident. Not suggested as a target.

The Developer

The developer is a weird beast. He has tons of devices and still wonders why Apple does not allow downgrading. It is likely he has an iPad1 with iOS5 kept in a drawer. He uses the phone mostly for job, testing his apps and those for clients. He has bought an incredible amount of applications for many reasons but particularly to study them.

A subset of this species is called indie. These guys pay their bills with what they do and sell on the app stores. They usually make fun of dumb users and enjoy telling jokes about 1 star reviews. The developer tweets (a lot!) and recently is discovering ADN or at least has heard about it (I have a few invites btw, ping me if you need one). If the developer is male and married he probably receives lots of messages from his wife, blaming himself for that time he told her that iMessage is free. The developer is a good target. Build something good and he’ll buy it and tweet about it. Yet, he will always have something to say about your app and suggest a few ways to improve it. This makes him even a better target.

The Hipster

He has an iPhone2, bought during a trip in California. He uses it as a music player and to hook up with girls fascinated by vintage stuff. Your apps can’t run on his phone.


Do you match any of the above? I partially fit both minimalist and developer. You don’t feel represented? Let me know on twitter or ADN and I will update the post.