Has the iPhone lost its cool?

September 13, 2011

Martin Fitcher, head of HTC’s U.S. operations, said Monday that he thinks the iPhone is losing its cachet among the younger generation. At least, that’s what he hears from his daughter’s classmates at Reed College in Portland, Ore.

“I talked to a few of the kids on her floor,” Fitcher told a crowd at the Mobile Future Forward conference in downtown Seattle, GeekWire reported. “And none of them has an iPhone because they told me: ‘My dad has an iPhone.’ There’s an interesting thing that’s going on in the market. The iPhone becomes a little less cool than it was.” He went on to say that while other Apple products like the MacBook Air were popular on campus, student phones tended to be made by Samsung, HTC or other manufacturers.

Now, it’s important to consider the source here — HTC is the largest Android maker in the United States and Europe, and it would be an understatement to say it’s not on great terms with Apple. But it is true that Android phones are more popular with younger users than the iPhone, according to research from Pew’s Internet and American Life Project.

That’s most likely because there’s a wider range of price options and models to choose from; iPhones (and BlackBerrys) were more popular with wealthier consumers and college graduates.

What’s not clear is whether younger people are shying away from the iPhone because it’s the phone their parents use or because they can’t afford it.

In follow-up remarks, Fitcher essentially said the same thing. He said that HTC is looking at a different market than Apple, saying, “we are selling phones to different people.” It’s clear from offerings like the HTC Status that the company is marketing to a younger crowd of digital natives who are looking for the next hot thing.

To buy a cheap iPhone, you have to go back a generation (or two), but relatively inexpensive Android phones are available on every carrier. In this case, I think it’s not that the iPhone has lost its cool factor, but rather that it’s just not as accessible to college trendsetters.

What do you think?

Related stories:

Post Tech: Android steals #2 platform spot from iOS in Europe

Smartphone patent wars heat up: Microsoft v. Motorola

Smartphone shipments surpass feature phones in Europe

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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