From 2006 until 2009, Apple ran a series of memorable TV advertisements that anthropomorphized a PC and a Mac in the forms of John Hodgman and Justin Long. Hodgman, playing the part of a PC, was dressed in a business suit, wore glasses, donned a haircut from 1985, and only broke from his mostly dull personality to get excited about making spreadsheets. Long, on the other hand, sporting a t-shirt, stylish jeans, and a quick-witted personality, portrayed Macs as the computing choice for cooler, more modern consumers.
The ads were a clever marketing technique by Apple to portray themselves as the more modern and innovative computing platform. But they also played on people's general stereotype that Mac users tend to be younger, hipper, and more tech-savvy than PC users. So we crunched the numbers at SameGrain to find out if and how Mac and PC users differ.
We found that some of the stereotypes appear to have some grain of truth - Mac users do indeed tend to be slightly younger, more liberal, and more artistic. But some of the other differences may surprise you. Check out the plot below for the full results of the analysis.
The analysis was done using hundreds of thousands of data-points about users' preferences, experiences, and demographics from SameGrain, a platform for meeting new people (primarily friends) based on what you have in common. Characteristics are listed from top to bottom by those most unique to PC users to those most unique to Mac users. The center black lines indicate how much more likely a PC/Mac user is to have that characteristic relative to a user of the other computer platform. For each characteristic, the width of the box shows the uncertainty of the likelihood (for those interested, it's the 99% confidence interval). The plot is interactive: hovering over each bar will display a popup that explicates the difference between Mac and PC users in that characteristic. For example, a PC user is 14% - 30% more likely than a PC user to have owned a Ford vehicle. The color of the bar indicates how confident we are that PC/Mac users are more likely than users of the other computer platform to have that characteristic (statistic-savvy readers will recognize this as the z-score).
It's (Mostly) All About the Benjamins
Education and Money
Many of the differences between Mac and PC users can be directly attributed to differences in the buying power of the users (or buying power as implied from education and spending habits). The data implies Mac users are more educated and affluent than PC users.
Mac users are approximately 20% more likely to have a bachelor's degree and 32% more likely to have a graduate degree than PC users. These percentages are based on polling a sample of the population (SameGrain has not collected data on every Mac or PC user), so there is an uncertainty to the measurements, which can be calculated. We can say with 99% confidence that Mac users are 12-28% and 18-45% more likely to have a bachelor's and graduate degree, respectively.
Education level is highly correlated with income, so it is a safe conclusion to say that Mac users are generally wealthier than PC users. The income disparity is also born out in differences in spending habits. Perhaps the most obvious example is that PC users are more likely to own domestic vehicles such as those made by Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge, while Mac users are more likely to own foreign vehicles from BMW or Volkswagen.
There has been quite a bit of research done that suggests a correlation between a person's income and the quality of their diet and the amount of sleep they get each night, both of which are born out in the SameGrain data. Note that PC users are more likely to eat junk food and get less than 8 hours of sleep, while Mac users are more likely to eat gourmet meals and sleep for more than 8 hours. We see similar trends when comparing how users spend their disposable income; PC users are more likely to live paycheck to paycheck, while Mac users are more likely to save for a new home. This agrees with research that finds people at higher income levels are more likely to save than those in lower income brackets. This trend probably also explains why PC users are more likely to have more than 3 children - such households likely have less disposable income.
We find that Mac users tend to be slightly younger than PC users. Mac users are about 6% more likely to be under the age of 35. It's a small - but statistically significant - difference. Other differences that could be attributed to age include political affiliation (PC users are more likely to be conservative while Mac users are more likely to be liberal) and stage of career (Mac users are more likely to be just starting their career).
Some of the differences were surprising. PC users are more likely to list Family Guy as one of their favorite TV shows, not pay attention to the news, like football, and like their meat prepared well done. Mac users are more likely to prefer Coca-Cola over Pepsi, play a musical instrument, make their bed most mornings, have a gym membership, and play tennis. Some of these characteristics may be related to disposable income. If Mac users are wealthier, they may have money to spend on gym memberships and musical instruments. The popularity of video games among PC users would seem to argue against this explanation, but PCs have long held an edge over Macs among gamers.
Among the strongest characteristics of a Mac user is an affinity for art. Mac users are 25% more likely to identify art as their favorite high school subject. In fact, we find that all users who majored in art in college use Macs.