I ride the New York subway every day, and I see a lot of trendy gadgets. New York consumers tend to adopt portable technology early and are much less price-sensitive than most of the country. (Our cost of living is so much higher that nationally constant prices are comparatively low — $300 was two weeks’ rent in Pittsburgh, but that would only buy a few days in most New York apartments, so a gadget that costs $300 is comparatively less expensive here relative to incomes and the other costs in our lives.)
Today, John Gruber said about this Palm Pre poor-sales speculation:
Anecdotally, I haven’t seen a single Pre in use in real life.
The subway is a great sample of the generally upper segment of the market. Here’s roughly what I’ve seen since the Pre’s release:
- One Pre. A friend bought one. She’s the only person I know with one.
- A lot of iPhones. On any given train, there will be at least three in sight — and I can usually only see about a third of the car. There are probably many more in pockets and bags.
- Frequent iPod Touches. About one for every 10 iPhones.
- A lot of BlackBerries with their owners either reading email or playing Breakout. (Really. That’s all they do.) BlackBerries are approximately tied with iPhones but are slowly losing ground.
- An occasional dumbphone, but less frequently than the iPod Touch. These are probably underrepresented because their owners have little reason to take them out on the subway.
- Almost no recognizable Windows Mobile devices. The Motorola Q and similar Windows Smartphone (non-touchscreen) devices were very popular in 2006-2007 but quickly fell off the planet.
- No non-Pre devices from Palm. Treo usage vanished over the last two years.
- About one smartphone per day that’s isn’t an iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm, or Windows device — usually one of those tacky T-Mobile things.
- iPod Nano: about one for every 5 iPhones, and the owner is usually watching a movie. (Otherwise they wouldn’t have it out.)
- iPod Classic: about one per day, and the owner is usually playing Solitaire.
- iPod Shuffle: about one per day that’s visibly clipped somewhere.
- Non-iPod, unrecognizable music players: about one per day.
- About one first-generation Kindle per week.
- 3-5 Kindle 2s per day, and increasing fairly rapidly. Only a few months ago, it was 0-2 per day.
- Zero Kindle DXes so far.
- One Sony Reader.
- About one PSP every two weeks, and one Nintendo DS every month.
- One Zune.
Among the iPhone OS devices, many people have multiple pages of apps. I assumed that most casual iPhone users would stick to the default set, but that hasn’t been prevalent.
The most frequent activities on iPhone OS devices are, in this order:
- Listening to music
- Using Mail (iPhones only)
- Playing a game (casual, non-action games have clear dominance, such as Solitaire and Sudoku)
- Watching video (usually a popular, recognizable TV show or movie)
- Using Stanza or Kindle (I can’t often tell the difference)
- Using another non-game app
(I still haven’t spotted someone using Instapaper, but some coworkers have. That’s why I keep looking to see what everyone’s doing on their iPhones. Hey, at least I’m honest about my vanity searches.)
Some interesting conclusions I can draw from this admittedly unscientific, imprecise, and limited sample:
- The Kindle 2 is really catching on. The price drop may explain the boost in recent months. But given that New York subway riders have always had disproportionately high newspaper and book readership relative to most Americans, I wouldn’t consider this to be nationally representative.
- The iPhone and iPod Touch are serious portable gaming platforms for average people who would probably never have bought a dedicated portable game system.
- Breakout seems to be the only game on BlackBerries.
Most importantly, it’s very clear that Windows and Palm aren’t in this game anymore.