Battle of the Sexes: App Use Differences Between Men and Women

Oct 26, 2017
By: Marissa Camilli

Testosterone Rex is dead.

So claims Cordelia Fine, author of Testosterone Rex, the book that shares the nickname for the belief that men and women are fundamentally different. Couched in terms of evolutionary science, this view has prevailed for decades. However, modern science has proven that we are not as different as believed. That may be the case, but it won’t stop us from grabbing a ringside seat to see how each side fares in this epic battle!

How men and women use apps

While there may be some overlap in the apps men and women use, how they use them can be quite different. What motivates men and women to use apps the way they do? We attempt to answer that question by looking at some specific examples from several major app categories.


Mobile use has crept up among all age groups, but Millennial parents are most likely to use their smartphones while shopping, according to this Inc. article. 86% of Millennial moms tend to use their smartphones to shop while 84% of Millennial dads use them while shopping. There may not be much difference in numbers, but they interact with their phones in substantially different ways.

Top 5 activities of men while shopping

  1. 53% check product reviews
  2. 52% compare prices
  3. 50% use an app to find nearby store locations
  4. 49% check store hours
  5. 49% look for coupons, discounts, or deals

Top 5 activities of women while shopping

  1. 66% look for coupons and deals
  2. 62% access saved coupons
  3. 62% compare prices
  4. 57% check store hours
  5. 54% create shopping lists

Most downloaded apps by Category

This is where we can begin to see a real difference in the apps men and women use and how they use them.

Top 5 app categories for women:

  • Social Media
  • News
  • Productivity
  • Lifestyle
  • Books

Top 5 app categories for men:

  • Business
  • Games
  • Navigation
  • Travel
  • Health & Fitness

What can we glean from this information? Women are more oriented toward family, social, and what’s going on around them while men are more oriented toward doing and accomplishing things. Women tend to largely define themselves by their relationships and roles, while men tend to define themselves by what they can accomplish, especially if it gives them a sense of purpose and power.

Social media


A towering giant among social media platforms, Facebook boasts nearly 2 billion users, according to this CNN Report from May. A PLoS One study conducted recently found that, out of 10 million messages from 52,000 men and women, language was largely similar. However, the content of those messages diverged widely along two different paths, with women talking mostly about family, friends, and social life, while men talked mostly about objects instead of people. Men were also much more likely to swear, express anger, and use argumentative language in their messages. Messages from women tended to be “warmer, more compassionate, [and] polite”  than messages from men. On the other hand, messages from men were found to be “colder, more hostile, and impersonal.”


This study was performed by Dharmesh Shah and published here on Hubspot.

While the length of time that men and women have been on Twitter is virtually the same, it would appear that women tend to be much more active on the social media platform than men. This could be of value to advertisers who are looking for new opportunities to engage customers. A somewhat disappointing drawback to this study is that it did not elaborate on how men and women used Twitter; so no conclusions can be drawn as to why men and women use Twitter and if there are any significant differences.

How both men and women use Twitter is changing, however. Over the last few years, it has become a platform for professionals in both the public and private sectors. Professional users are using it for self-promotion and/or the promotion of their companies.


According to this Omincore article, there are currently about 700 million active Instagram users who upload 95 million photos per day. 68% of users on Instagram are Women (32% are men). 77.6 million of those users, or about 11%, are from the US. Almost one-third of American women and nearly one-quarter of American men use Instagram.

Millennials make 59% of Instagram users, followed by Gen Z at 33%. Combined, these two generations represent over 90% of users on Instagram.

In a nutshell, Instagram is a visual social media platform. According to Alice Merwick, a social media researcher, “With the most mainstream Instagram users, we see very conventional beauty standards and aesthetics.” This explains the countless perfect, beautiful images that are found on the platform. That also explains why the majority of Instagram users are women.

Instagram is much more than just a place to hang out and learn new ways to do your eyebrows. Beauty was, at one time, largely defined by glossy magazines such as Vogue. Times are changing, however, as women like Amra Olevic make multi-million dollar careers as makeup gurus. Beauty has been democratized and is no longer defined mostly by modeling agencies and magazines.


Bet you didn’t see that one coming! People are using their smartphones to parent their children. Apps that track a child’s location and social media accounts are popular, along with apps that limit the time spent by children on their smartphones. Child safety isn’t the only way mobile has found its way into our lives. Both male and female parents use mobile devices to pacify and entertain their kids. Jordan Shapiro, a contributing writer at Forbes, confesses in this article to being one of the 29% of parents who do this. He also shares how he danced around in his living room singing along with classic Beatles tunes, something researchers are now calling “the new coviewing”. Basically, this is where parents and their children share engagement experiences in so-called ‘new media’, a euphemism that appears to mean internet-based media as opposed to traditional media that includes TV, books, and printed literature.

The rise in popularity of internet-based media and smartphones present new opportunities for advertisers looking to target parents, especially through educational games and apps that are designed to engage both parent and child. Retailers who create apps that provide opportunities for both parents and children to engage will gain a competitive edge over retailers who stick to apps that target only the parents.

Personal Stuff


According to this Flurry report, dads see their phones as a private refuge, with 69% of them falling into the Health and Fitness persona. Dads also like to engage in a little shopping therapy, with 63% fitting the Shopping persona. The Video Game persona saw a 24% match with dads and the Education persona matched 21%. Last in the top five was the Sports Enthusiast persona with 19% of dads.


Most moms see their smartphones as indispensable, according to this Edison Research report. 97% of moms own a cell phone and their love of streaming media includes both audio and video.

Online radio is popular, with Pandora taking top billing at 53% of women. Next in line was iHeart Radio with 22%, Spotify at 15%, Apple Music at 13%, and Amazon Music at 12%. Podcasts are also growing in popularity with 66% of women in the survey listening to podcasts on their smartphones.

YouTube is popular among women for both videos and music, with 43% using YouTube within the last week.

If moms really like streamed audio and YouTube, they love on-demand video too. Just over two-thirds of moms have a subscription to Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, with 55% using one of those services at least once a week. In this scenario, Netflix is the beast – 59% of moms subscribe to Netflix, while half of them use Netflix at least once a week. 38% of moms subscribe to Amazon Prime. Statistics for Hulu were not available at the time this was written.

What it all means

At the end of the day, women tend to consume social media and streamed content at much higher rates than men. They also tend to be more money-conscious, looking for ways to save money on most purchases. Men are less active on social media and tend to engage in it for different purposes. When it comes to shopping, men will grab a great deal when they see one, but the lack of a coupon or discount won’t necessarily cause them to purchase the item elsewhere.

Women may be reached most effectively through social media and streaming media services with creative campaigns that speak to what’s important to them: family, friends, and the multiple roles she has. Men, on the other hand, may be best reached through social media and the apps they use on a regular basis. What’s important to him: what he’s accomplished, what he’s working toward, and how he maintains his health.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that mobile has fundamentally changed the advertising game, and most advertisers are still figuring it out. High smartphone ownership rates combined with users finding new ways to use their phones through apps that provide the features and functionality they need, mobile phones may become the primary way most of us engage the internet within a few years. Testosterone Rex may be dead, but mobile is just getting started.

Marissa Camilli
By Marissa Camilli
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