There is plenty of financial evidence of the iPhone and iPad’s popularity in Apple’s earnings and those of its carrier partners. Now there is biometric proof of the Apple devices’ allure, as well.
A study by EyeTrackshop that recorded consumers looking at groups of smartphones and tablets discovered that Apple’s iPhone 4S and iPad 2 drew more glances and held people’s attention longer than Google Android devices from Amazon, HTC, Motorola and Samsung.
The results show that Apple remains “unrivalled” in the smartphone and tablet domains even though the iPhone has been around for four years and the iPad for two, said Jeff Bander, EyeTrackshop’s Senior Vice President Of Client Services, in an interview. “We thought Apple would win, but not by this much,” Bander added.“Winning” by EyeTrackshop’s standards, means the ability to attract people’s gaze and keep it. The two-year-old startup, which is headquartered in Stockholm and has offices in New York and Shanghai, uses eye-tracking technology to gauge the effectiveness of print and online ads, packaging designs and website and store layouts. “Eyes don’t lie,” contends Bander. “If you see it, you do, if you didn’t, you didn’t.”
EyeTrackshop spends most of its time conducting studies for companies like Procter & Gamble, Google and eBay. It decided to analyze high-end smartphones and tablets as an independent project following the recent, high-profile launches of the iPhone 4S and Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet, said Bander.
The study, which took place on Oct. 20, involved 200 respondents across the U.S. All were observed online via their computers’ webcams. A separate market research firm recruited the testers. After the participants agreed to participate and turned on their webcams, EyeTrackshop’s software did a quick calibration, then showed them photos of the phones and tablets on their computers.
The software, through the webcam, measured which devices the participants were looking at, in what order and for how long. The analysis was based on rapid-fire pictures (10 to 20 photos a second) of participants’ eyes and faces.
Each photo — one showing six smartphones, including the iPhone, and one showing five tablets, including the iPad — was shown for 10 seconds. EyeTrackshop measured how long people looked at each gadget. The iPhone commanded the greatest amount of attention — 2.3 seconds, on average — in its group. Among tablets, the iPad tied with the Amazon Kindle Fire for the lead, at 2.4 seconds each.
In both groups, the gap between the lead gadget and the rest was dramatic. Other smartphones ranged in times from 1.8 to 1.1 seconds. Other tablets ranged in times from 1.9 to 1.1 seconds. “Over 100% more time was spent on the iPhone than the least popular phone and on the iPad than the least popular tablet,” noted Bander.
Another study metric, called Visual Attention Pattern, also found the iPhone and iPad drawing more attention than rival Android devices. The results, which resemble a heat map, showed large spots of red on both devices. The other phones and tablets have mostly yellow and green
spots. On the spectrum EyeTrackshop uses, red means “more attention” while green means “less attention.” Yellow falls in the middle.
The color is derived from the points the participants look at, said Bander. When the points are closer together, the heat map appears red; when they are spread apart or absent — indicating that people did not look at that point at all — the map appears green. In other words, red indicates a focused gaze while green indicates a lack of focus on that particular device.
The third factor that EyeTrackshop measured was Fixation Order or the sequence in which participants looked at the devices. Here, again, the iPhone and iPad won or nearly did. The iPhone attracted participants’ gaze first out of all six phones. In the tablet group, the iPad placed second, after the Samsung Galaxy Tab.
EyeTrackshop said the results equate to respondents dwelling on the iPhone 4S 42% longer than the other phones and on the iPad 138% longer than the other tablets.
More testing could produce more conclusive results. In the fixation order portion of the study, participants tended to view the phones in a clockwise motion, beginning with the iPhone in the upper left of the group image. The tablets generally followed the opposite pattern, with people viewing the group in a counter-clockwise motion, starting with the Galaxy Tab in the upper right corner.
People’s inclination to view groupings in a clockwise or counter-clockwise pattern may have favored the iPhone and iPad based on their positions in EyeTrackshop’s images. Bander acknowledged that the gadget project was a preliminary study. A full-fledged project would typically involve four to six tests that varied the order of the devices to ensure results weren’t linked to the image layout, he said.
EyeTrackshop does not rely solely on biometric data for its conclusions. Most of its market studies include an online questionnaire. In the gadget study, responses to the questionnaire
confirmed the iPhone and iPad as the most attractive devices in their respective groups. Asked which of the phones they find most visually appealing, 40% of respondents pointed to the iPhone. Queried which phone they would buy if cost were no issue, 47% indicated the iPhone.
The iPad also did well in the questionnaire, though not as well as the iPhone. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they found the iPad the most visually appealing tablet and 48% said they would buy the iPad if cost were no issue. Amazon’s Kindle Fire came in second with
29% and 20% support, respectively.
The runners-up are telling since Samsung is Apple’s closest competitor in smartphone sales — and just passed it in third-quarter smartphone shipments according to Strategy Analytics — while the Kindle Fire is believed to be the iPad’s biggest rival when it goes on sale in mid-November. Apple’s products may be drawing the most attention now, but rivals aren’t being completely ignored.