By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
March 17, 2014

FORTUNE — Tech pundit John Gruber, best known for his Daring Fireball blog, launched a mobile app last summer, and it seems to have given him new perspective on the smartphone market. Or at least a new metaphor.

The terms most often used to describe the competition among Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT) and Samsung are drawn from the military. The smartphone and tablet wars. The battles for control.

The problem with such analogies is that they assume the combatants are playing on the same field. Describing iOS v. Android as an “app war” for example, doesn’t explain why iOS users spend more money, install more apps and browse the Web more, even though they’re outnumbered.

“The elephant in the room,” writes Gruber, is that “people who choose iOS devices are better customers than people who choose Android. Or inverted: iOS (and iOS devices) are designed to attract better customers.”

Or to put it still another way, one that seem to have turned into a meme over the weekend:

“It’s not fair to say that Apple is playing chess while Google, Samsung, Microsoft, and the rest are playing checkers. It’s more like they’re all playing chess, Apple is winning, but there’s a large contingent of the tech and investor commentariat who think the game is checkers and thus are deeply confused.”

LINK: Daring Fireball: The ecosystem chess game.

Below: MacDailyNews dug deeper into what Asymco’s Horace Dediu called “The Android engagement paradox.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       MacDailyNews Take: It’s the marketing, stupid.

Android is pushed to users who are, in general:

a) confused about why they should be choosing an iPhone over an inferior knockoff and therefore might be less prone to understand/explore their devices’ capabilities or trust their devices with credit card info for shopping; and/or
b) enticed with “Buy One Get One Free,” “Buy One, Get Two or More Free,” or similar ($100 Gift Cards with Purchase) offers.

Neither type of customer is the cream of the crop when it comes to successful engagement or coveted demographics; closer to the bottom of the barrel than the top, in fact. Android can be widespread and still demographically inferior precisely because of the way in which and to whom Android devices are marketed. Unending BOGO promos attract a seemingly unending stream of cheapskate freetards just as inane, pointless TV commercials about robots or blasting holes in concrete walls attract meatheads and dullards, not exactly the best demographics unless you’re peddling muscle building powders or grease monkey overalls.

Google made a crucial mistake: They gave away Android to “partners” who pushed and continue to push the product into the hands of the exact opposite type of user that Google needs for Android to truly thrive. Hence, Android is a backwater of second-rate, or worse, app versions that are only downloaded when free or ad-supported – but the Android user is notoriously cheap, so the ads don’t sell for much because they don’t work very well. You’d have guessed that Google would have understood this, but you’d have guessed wrong. Google built a platform that depends heavily on advertising support, but sold it to the very type of customer who’s the least likely to patronize ads.

iOS users are the ones who buy apps, so developers focus on iOS users. iOS users buy products, so accessory makers focus on iOS users. iOS users have money and the proven will to spend it, so vehicle makers focus on iOS users. Etcetera. Android can have the Hee Haw demographic. Apple doesn’t want it or need it; it’s far more trouble than it’s worth.

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