Google is filling high school classrooms with Androids and Chromebooks - but the kids just want iPhones

iPhone teenGonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

  • Google has won the K-12 education technology market.
  • Part of their motivation to move into that market is to get kids acclimated to Google products, like the Chromebook.
  • However, teenagers prefer to buy iPhones and MacBooks when they graduate high school.

High school senior Kendra Lodewyk uses a Google Chromebook at school every day - and has since eighth grade. "Just today, I used one in first hour, third hour, and fifth hour," she told Business Insider.

And when Lodewyk goes home, she logs into Google Classroom. It's the online tool where her teachers post homework, quizzes, essays, classroom activities, deadlines, readings, and so on. Google Docs and other Google productivity tools are available there as well.

The usage of Google products isn't unique to Lodewyk's public school in Bay City, Michigan. There are 80 million educators and students globally using G Suite for Education, which allows users to access Gmail, Google Cloud, Google Docs, and other productivity tools. In 2017, Chromebooks and other Google devices made up 58% of all devices purchased for US classrooms, according to Futuresource data.

Lodewyk is a fan. "My peers and I benefit from both of these tools," she said.

Read more: Teachers love Google's education products but are suspicious. Why is a megacorporation giving them a perfect tool for free?

But Lodewyk is all about Apple when it comes to the devices she actually buys. Lodewyck said she has an iPhone 8 and plans to get a MacBook when she goes to college.

teen laptoplovinglaurenx/YouTube

That's like most Generation Zs - the generation born after 1997 that's on track to overtake millennials in population.

Google has become wildly popular in K-12 classrooms like Lodewyck's, even though Google doesn't make much money distributing that technology in the education sphere. Indeed, Jonathan Rochelle, a product management director for G Suite for Education, even told Business Insider that Google's push into education is partially "philanthropic."

Analysts say Google's interest in schooling stems from a desire to get children and teenagers accustomed to the Google ecosystem.

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"It's pretty clear what motive Google has," Gartner Research vice president Kelly Calhoun Williams, who focuses on K-12 education and was in public education for 25 years, told Business Insider. "This is not a product they're selling; this is not a commercial product. It's getting lots of people very used to working in a Google environment."

So, if teens aren't falling in love with Chromebooks, why does Google keep pushing into the education market?

Apple is losing the ed-tech market, but it's still won over the teens

Even as Google dominates the classroom, teens are typically more likely to buy an iPhone and a MacBook than a Pixel and a Chromebook.

Investment bank and asset management firm Piper Jaffray found that, in their semi-annual survey of around 6,000 American teenagers, 86% plan to buy an iPhone for their next cell phone. And Worth Ave. Group found that 40% of college students shopping for a new computer will buy a MacBook. HP, which 15% chose, was the second-best brand.

Ishan Goel, a 19-year-old creative marketing strategist who has worked with Mark Cuban Companies, Frito Lays, and other brands, told Business Insider that Apple is the top choice for most Gen Zs shopping for tech.

"Apple built a product with a user interface and experience that embodies what Gen Z stands for - simplicity, connectability with other devices and programs, ease of access, and, most importantly, speed," Goel said.

This is despite Apple's decreased presence in the K-12 education technology market. Apple produced more than half of all education devices in the US in 2012, according to Futuresource. Just five years later, that market share has dropped to 19%.

market shareFuturesource Consulting, Andy Kiersz/Business Insider

Of course, not all teens are gaga for Apple. The prices are too high to be the universal choice for Gen Zs.

Madeline Topete, a 17-year-old who lives in Southern California, owns a Chromebook that she bought for $250 two years ago. She said it's held up well.

Still, Topete yearns for a MacBook. "The truth is, all of us prefer Apple technology because of its advanced features and more user-friendly layout, but not everyone can afford one," she said. "Those I know with a Mac got one from Mommy and Daddy, so to speak."

Even if teens prefer iPhones, Google is still winning

Students who use Chromebooks might not love the hardware, but they're getting acclimated to the Chrome browser, Google Search, and YouTube. All of those products can be used on non-Google devices.

"There is some anchoring effect," Avi Greengart, the research director for consumer devices at GlobalData, told Business Insider. "If you're familiar and comfortable with one environment, you're more likely to stick to that atonement more than if you've never encountered it."

And moreover, Google makes the lion's share of its income from Search and YouTube - not hardware sales. Alphabet generates $27.2 billion from advertising from Google searches and from YouTube; revenue from its cloud, device, and other sales comprise just $4.7 billion.

selfieAvery Morrison/YouTube

So, while MacBook-littered college campuses suggest the opposite, Greengart said Google has actually won in the education battle.

That's because many Gen Zs use Google Search, YouTube, Chrome, Gmail, Google Maps, and so on with their non-Google devices. And Greengart said getting a new generation of users acclimated to sharing its data with Google is a win for the company's advertising-dominated bottom line.

Goel agreed that Google's cloud technology has kept its productivity tools popular for Gen Zs. "When I was in school, we would have a group Google Doc," Goel said. "We would all take notes in the same file together at the same time, which helped create a class review for midterms and finals."

"I would argue that that shows Google's strategy for education has worked quite well even if you're not using (Google hardware) anymore," Greengart said. "There are long-term benefits for Google there."

Get the latest Google stock price here.

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