Cloud Four Blog

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A “Comprehensive” Guide to Mobile Statistics

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. How the sources were selected
  3. Types of Statistics Available
  4. Which stats should you care about?

Introduction

At least once a week, I see people arguing over mobile statistics. Usually, they’re not even arguing about the same thing.

The arguments go something like this:

iPhone fan: Apple is totally kicking ass. The only thing holding it back is the fact it is stuck on this crappy AT&T network.

Android fan: Take off your iPhone blinders. Android has passed the iPhone in market share in the whole world, not just the U.S. The Verizon iPhone won’t make a difference.

iPhone fan: That’s not a fair comparison. You should be looking at all iOS devices, not just the iPhone. If you don’t count the iPod Touch and the iPad, you’re missing the point.

Android fan: Whatever. You’re comparing apples to oranges. Besides, there will be at ton of Android tablets in the next year. This is Windows vs. Mac all over again.

iPhone fan: Whatever. I’ll be sitting here laughing my way to the bank with my Apple shares as Apple gobbles up all of the profits.

Typically, the people arguing aren’t even talking about the same thing. They probably aren’t even asking the same questions or if they are, they are asking questions that are too simplistic like “Who’s going to win?”

There are two things you need to know in order to effectively use statistics on mobile:

  1. What statistics are available and where to find them.
  2. What question about mobile that you’re seeking to answer.

Until you understand these two things, you can’t use mobile stats to inform your decisions. Worse yet, you may end up fruitlessly arguing with people about mobile only to realize later that you’re not even talking about the same thing.

How the sources were selected

When you have the audacity to call something a “comprehensive guide,” you know the moment you hit the publish button that someone is going to point out something you’ve missed. I not only expect that to happen, I’m hoping it does. I’m looking forward to learning new sources from people who comment on this post.

My bias is for finding free or inexpensive sources of data. We’re a small company and can’t afford expensive reports. That said, many of the sources listed provide their free information as a teaser for more in depth reports that they you can buy.

Types of Statistics Available

Sales market share

Sales market share is the most common statistic used to track the current trends in the mobile market. This information usually comes out a month or so after the end of a quarter and tells you how many products a company or platform sold in the previous quarter.

What this stat is good for

  • Following the trends in success of the various platforms and manufacturers to see where the market is headed. This can help you anticipate what platforms or handsets you need to watch next.
  • When the entire market is growing as fast as mobile is, a company can have record sales and still lose ground to its competition. You’ll see it here first.

What to watch for when you use this stat

  • Sales numbers are not the same as installed base numbers. A new platform may sell well in the previous quarter, but it will take some time before the sales of new products exceed the existing devices that people already own.
  • Know whether or not the statistic is measuring platform sales or manufacturer sales. Some analysts only look at manufacturer sales which will tell you how HTC is doing in comparison to Apple, but won’t tell you how Android is doing compared to iPhone.
  • It helps to understand the seasonal nature of sales. Apple historically releases a new iPhone model in late Q2 or early Q3. Ergo, Apple sales historically jump in Q3.
  • Understand what market is being defined. Most of what I look at is smartphone market share. Some people believe that you should look at the entire sales of a platform. So market share for the iOS platform should include iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Even if this argument was correct, you’ll find that it is next to impossible to find data that looks at the world that way.

Sales market share sources

Gartner ( Press releases | Recent example )
Gartner is my favorite source. They have a good reputation and they include both overall device sales and smartphone platform market share. They also have begun tracking tablet market share. Gartner’s data comes out every quarter about a month after the quarter ends. It is usually the last of the big analyst firms to release their numbers. Free information can be found in their press releases or you can pay for detailed reports.
IDC ( Press releases | Recent example )
IDC also has a great reputation. I find their numbers a little less useful because they focus on manufacturers not platforms. However, their press releases will often mention the relative success of the platforms in the prose just not in the breakdown tables.
Canalys ( Press releases | Recent example )
Canalys has been monitoring mobile for quite some time. They are usually one of the first to report the results for the previous quarter. They were also one of the first to start looking at smartphones instead of PDAs. Others have complained that their definition of Android in their Q4 2010 report was including Android forks (OMS and Tapas) that shouldn’t be included. My main beef with Canalys is superficial—the typeface on their site is too small and the site is difficult to read.
Strategy Analytics ( Press releases | Recent example )
Strong focus on mobile, but less well known compared to Gartner and IDC. Does not include platform numbers. They have started covering tablet market share and have some info on mobile internet usage.
ABI Research ( Press releases | Recent example )
ABI has an extensive mobile research component. Much of the value is only available to people who sign up for their research service.
NPD Group ( Press releases | Recent example )
Focuses on the US market. Uses large online surveys weighted to match US demographics and asks recent smartphone buyers what they bought. Often includes information on top five handsets in the US. First analyst to report that Android had passed iPhone which prompted Apple PR, which normally doesn’t comment, to criticize the report. Later analysts validated NPD’s early numbers.
Tomi Ahonen ( Search for smartphone blood bath articles | Recent example )
Tomi provides quarterly analysis in his bloodbath series. He has his own models, but always incorporates the numbers from the major analyst firms. Tomi’s name might as well be Tome based on the fact his posts are always epic in length. As a former Nokia executive, he has soft spot for Nokia which can blind him on occasion, but there is a reason why Tomi is someone the mobile industry continues to read. He also self publishes the TomiAhonen Almanac and TomiAhonen Phone Book.
Asymco ( Posts tagged with market | Recent example )
A relative newcomer, Asymco is a blog run by Horace Dediu. As far as I can tell, Horace isn’t a source of new statistics even though the first place you can hear of new research is often his blog. Instead of new research, Horace provides insightful analysis of the market. He often hightlights aspects of the data that others ignore. He provides great graphs to accompany his pieces and you can download data from the blog into an iOS app where you can manipulate the data. He has a soft spot for Apple, but has a realistic view of the market having recently said that he “still holds that 20% smartphone share is possible for the iPhone.” Asymco is a must read blog.

Installed base market share

Whereas sales market share looks at what was sold recently, the installed base market share—sometimes called subscriber market share—attempts to figure out what percentage of each type of phone is currently in use in the real world. These numbers don’t change as rapidly as the sales numbers.

Because phones will eventually be lost, stolen, broken or replaced, you can’t simply add up all of the phones sold in the past to find out how many phones are currently being used. For that reason, information on the installed base comes from surveying end users.

What this stat is good for

  • If you can find a match between installed base and a market that you want to target, it can help you determine what devices you need to worry about.
  • It helps you understand how quickly changes in the sales numbers are resulting in changes in the number of people using new devices.

What to watch for when you use this stat

  • Almost all of the numbers are based on a particular geographic area and not worldwide data.
  • Just because someone has a phone, doesn’t mean they are likely to use the capabilities of that phone in a way that makes sense for your business. For example, if someone has a feature phone, they are less likely to have a data plan and thus less likely to browse the web.

Installed base market share sources

Comscore ( Mobile press releases | Recent example )
Comscore and Nielsen are my go to sources for current information on the installed base of phones in the United States. Comscore reports include both handset and platform percentages. They also include information on mobile content usage. In 2011, they released their first annual report which looks at U.S., Europe and Japan.
Nielsen ( Blog | Recent example )

I like Nielsen’s blog posts better, but the information they highlight varies which is why makes following trends more difficult. (Comscore has the same data from month to month so it is easier to compare). They also highlight interesting information like the fact that “Hispanics, Asians are Most-Likely Smartphone Owners in the U.S.” Bonus points for using a blog format and being easy on the eyes.

Other than Comscore and Nielsen, I don’t have good sources for the installed base of phones. It would be nice to add to this list some sources for data in other countries.

Financial information

I’m the first to admit that I’m not someone you want to take financial advice from. But as I mentioned above, at some point in a debate about mobile phones, someone will issue the trump card that while Apple may not be dominating in market share, that they dominate in profits. Where does that information come from?

The simple answer is that it comes from each companies quarterly financial reports. It’s not hard to find the financial reports of each company so I’m going to leave that as a exercise for the reader. Instead, I’ll want to highlight a few sources that talk a bit about the profit breakdown of the market.

What this stat is good for

  • If you’re investing, this is obviously critical to make sure you make smart stock decisions.
  • Most companies provide some information about the units sold in their financial statements or their earnings phone calls.

What to watch for when you use this stat

  • Unless you own stock in these companies, I’m not sure what good this information does for you. Obviously if a company is in dire financial trouble, that will impact the longevity of a platform. There are theories that we misunderstand the lesson of the pc market and that market share doesn’t matter as much as we think. That we should be watching profits instead. Others say the only thing matters is market share because it has it own momentum. That companies should stomach lower profit margins for a few years while the gold rush is on to secure a large market share that will drive long term value. Who’s right? I don’t know.
  • When you compare RIM financials to other companies, note that their financial quarter is one month off from everyone else’s. It makes direct comparisons more difficult.

Financial information sources

Seeking Alpha ( Earnings calls transcripts | Recent example )
I often find little gems come out during the earnings calls for various mobile companies. Whenever I’ve searched for transcripts of those calls, I often end up on sites where I have to pay to read the transcript. Seeking Alpha usually has the transcripts available free of charge.
Asymco ( Posts tagged financial | Recent example
I talked in more detail about Horace Dediu in the sales market share section. His blog is the place I see the most information on profit share breakdowns.

Platform breakdowns

Sometimes you need to find information within a given platform. Maybe you want to know how many handsets are still using a particular version of an operating system to determine if you need to support it.

What this stat is good for

  • Determining what versions you need to support.
  • Understanding how OS version plays into any platform fragmentation

What to watch for when you use this stat

  • Data is usually extremely high level. When you encounter a bug in a particular point release of an OS, it is hard to figure how may people are currently using that point release.

Sales market share sources

Android ( Versions report )
Google provides up to date information on Android versions.
Bada ( Developing Applications for Different Device Model )
Bada is too new to have much fragmentation, but they do describe how to plan for different models. Hopefully they will add platform percentages when they release newer versions of their OS.
Blackberry ( Choosing a target OS )

Decent high level numbers, but doesn’t distinguish between 5.x and 6.x. Also, there can be significant differences between point releases and the inability to know how many people are using a particular point release can be frustrating.
iOS versions ( ReadWriteWeb article from August 2010 )
There is no official source for iOS version breakdowns and no third-party that releases the information on a regular basis.
S40 / Symbian / Nokia ( Forum Nokia | Device breakdown )
With Nokia’s recent decision to move to Windows Phone 7 and the dismantling of the Symbian Foundation, I’m not sure how you find good information for existing market of handsets.
Windows Phone 7 ( App Hub
So new that all of the phones are on the same version. When it does publish data, it will likely be on App Hub.

Carrier data

There is a lot of information available about carrier market share, average revenue per user (ARPU), and what services are being used on each carrier. I generally don’t find this information as useful for our business or customers. That said, some of the information on how phones are being used can be fascinating.

What these stats are good for

  • Looking for other ways to augment your plans with services like SMS and MMS.
  • Understanding the total market for something like location based services.
  • Random information to wow your friends at dinner parties (Did you know the average teenager in the U.S. sends and receives 3,338 text messages per month?)

What to watch for when you use these stats

  • General data may not be indicative of what your customers are going to do or the services they use.

Carrier data sources

ABI Research ( One Billion Mobile Broadband Subscriptions in 2011: a Rosy Picture Ahead for Mobile Network Operators )
ABI is often quoted when people are looking for the number of mobile phone subscribers in the world.
Chetan Sharma ( Blog | US Mobile Data Market Update Q3 2010 )
Chetan has a long history in the U.S. mobile industry. His consulting practice helps large organizations understand the mobile market. Every quarter he publishes a market update that contains information comparing the carriers, the services that are being consumed, and the average revenue per user. His blog is also a great source of information on U.S. carriers and wireless usage.
CTIA ( CTIA Reports )
CTIA is an international organization, but its main focus appears to be on the U.S. They survey U.S. carriers every six months and publish a report showing revenue, average call time, number of text messages, etc.
Netsize ( Netsize Guide 2010 )
Netsize publishes an annual look at the worldwide mobile industry. It contains market data on 41 countries as well as interviews with thought leaders.
UN’s International Telecommunication Union ( Stats Index | Jan 2011 Statshot | Country Mobile Penetration Level Over Time )
The UN’s ITU tracks access to mobile networks and competition in mobile across the globe. The Google spreadsheet is very cool.
Mobile Active ( Mobile Data by Country )
Mobile statistics by country. BTW, Mobile Active is an amazing non-profit worth your support.

Demographic surveys

Demographic information is one of my favorite areas of mobile statistics. I believe there are trends in mobile that the tech press misses because they aren’t able to step outside the tech bubble and see how the demographics of smartphone users is shifting from the early adopter tech enthusiast to the general population and what that change means.

What these stats are good for

  • If you know the demographics of your customer base, it can help ensure your mobile strategy lines up with how your customers are likely to be using mobile devices.

What to watch for when you use these stats

  • The survey methodology is always important, but it is particularly important for demographic information. It is easy to find surveys that claim to have some demographic insight that have sample bias (e.g., only asking people who respond to mobile advertising).

Demographic information sources

Pew Research Center ( Publications on Internet and Technology | Cell phone activities by race and ethnicity )
Every time Pew releases new information related to use of mobile phones, I find something interesting. They’ve researched app usage, teens, race, and age differences.
Nielsen ( Nielsen Wire Blog | Among Mobile Phone Users, Hispanics, Asians are Most-Likely Smartphone Owners in the U.S. )
In addition to the market share information, Nielsen also provides information on demographics. The latest report even included smart phone operating system share by race / ethnicity.
TNS Digital Life ( TNS Digital Life Data Explorer )
Global study of almost 50,000 consumers in 46 countries. Website has really cool data exploration tool.
Mobile Marketing Association ( Research | Press Releases )
The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) keeps track of data and surveys by others in their research section in addition to conducting their own research. They publish report called the US Mobile Consumer Briefing which is supposed to come out monthly (November 2010 Report). I say “supposed to” because I can’t find the more recent reports on their site which I find confusing. The MMA also often issues press releases containing interesting information like the the fact that over half of U.S. consumers planned to use their mobile phone for holiday shopping last year.

Demographic articles I find interesting

I don’t have very many reliable sources of demographic data. I went through my bookmarks and nearly every link came from Pew or Nielsen. So instead of listing more sources that may not have a lot of demographic data, I thought it might be interesting to look a some demographic articles that I find fascinating.

How the Verizon iPhone Announcement Could Influence the Mobile Market
While this Comscore blog post is primarily about the impact of the Verizon iPhone on the smartphone market in the United States, it contains information about iPhone users including age, gender, and household income.
TNS survey: Smartphones gain traction for both businesses and consumers
Details on smartphone platforms in the United States by race and income.
African-Americans, Women and Southerners Talk and Text The Most in the U.S.
Voice and texting numbers organized by state.
Early U.S. iPad Users are Mostly Male, Aged 21 to 44
This information came out shortly after the iPad was released. I’m very interested in seeing newer data. Lots of people say that the iPad is the computer for people who don’t work on computers, but the only data I’ve seen says that the people buying iPads are the same people who buy tech overall. I don’t think it will remain that way, but I’m curious how far the iPad has gone beyond early adopters.
Among Mobile Phone Users, Hispanics, Asians are Most-Likely Smartphone Owners in the U.S.
There is a lot of information that indicates that minority populations are using phones to access the Internet in greater number than caucasians. Mobile phones are being used as leap frog technology for those with lower incomes. Because of this, I believe we will find a lot of hidden innovative uses of mobile phones within these populations. When you don’t have a computer to fall back to, you look at the phone in a different way.
For minorities, new ‘digital divide’ seen
This article in USA Today talks about the negative implications of the fact that minorities are increasingly using mobile phones to access the Internet. On the one hand it is good because they didn’t have ready access before. On the other hand, it presents challenges like filling out job applications on mobile phones and dealing with web sites that are only designed for desktop.
Generations and Gadgets
Pew Research study on technology ownership among age groups.
Rise of the ‘Apps Culture’
App usage demographics

Mobile web metrics

Back in early 2008 when Google created an iPhone optimized version of their search engine, one of the Google representatives justified the decision to develop a special version by saying, “It’s about usage. Not unit.”

When you’re looking at mobile web statistics, you’re looking at usage patterns to try to make decisions about what you need to support.

Unfortunately, nearly every public source of data about mobile web usage is problematic for reasons I’ll list below. The only data that is really useful is your own data about what your customers are using and what traffic your web site gets. And even the latter can be problematic.

If your site has a crummy mobile experience because it is slow or has requires flash, then current traffic to your site is likely not indicative of what will happen when you have a mobile optimized site.

What these stats are good for

  • Trying to understand what phones and browsers are being used on the mobile web.
  • Understanding how people are using the mobile web.

What to watch for when you use these stats

  • Technical problems may cause mobile usage to be under reported. Many web analytics packages require javascript to function. Many mobile phones don’t support javascript or even if they do, the javascript can be take too long to process on a device and fail before it can report back to the analytics server.

    Nearly every analytics engine provides a server side alternative that should be used to get accurate mobile information, but many sites owners don’t implement them or don’t implement them correctly. When looking at aggregate data about mobile usage, you have to wonder how much the data is skewed by this fundamental problem.

  • To expand on that previous point for a moment, PPK has been providing reports from StatCounter which is mentioned below. On a mailing list for mobile web, Luca Passani, the lead developer of WURFL, said that he had “4 million lines of logs from a major social network” and that his analysis of those logs showed Openwave at 8% of traffic and NetFront at over 12%. Unfortunately, he can’t share the source of the logs. What do you do with this information? I think you have to look at multiple sources for common elements and then get your own data from your own site and customers.
  • Mobile web usage of non-mobile optimized sites is unlikely to tell you much about what the usage will look like when a site is mobile optimized. Most of the aggregate analytics information lumps desktop and mobile web sites together in the reports.
  • And to beat a dead horse, here is a great article on Why You Should Take Mobile Web Traffic Statistics With A Grain of Salt

Mobile web metrics sources

StatCounter ( StatCounter Global Stats Reports | Press releases )
The interactive reporting tool for StatCounter allows you to look only at mobile browser usage. You can narrow the usage by country. For all of its flaws, it is only one of two sources that allows you to look at real time data over a large numbers of sites in every geography.
Quirksmode ( Market share blog posts | Jan 2011 data )
Quirksmode is the blog of web guru PPK. PPK publishes monthly reports based on StatCounter data. Every quarter he will dig into the data deeper to compare countries. His recap on 2010 mobile browser stats explains his plans.
Clicky Web Analytics ( Mobile web browsers market share)
Clicky is the other source in addition that StatCounter that allows you to inspect traffic by mobile browser. Unfortunately, it doesn’t identify as many browsers so 14% of traffic falls into the “other” browser category. I also suspect the service requires javascript and suffers from the same problem as StatCounter. I believe StatCounter has a wider reach and more accurate numbers.
Percent Mobile ( Blog | USA Mobile Web Overview – Sept 2010 )
Percent Mobile is a cool mobile web analytics service. They occasionally publish numbers and infographics from their aggregate data. They also have a good post explaining why Blackberry web usage in the USA is often underreported.
Bango ( Press releases | Blog | Q2 2010 Mobile Web Statistics
Bango provides analytics and payment systems for mobile. They’ve been at it for quite some time. While they don’t publish aggregate data all of the time, when they do publish it, I pay attention. My assumption is that because the value of their analytics comes from being able to identify mobile traffic and their relationship with carriers, that their analytics data is dominated by mobile sites and not desktop sites. BTW, Bango is a service more people should consider because of the relationship with carriers. That relationship allows them to uniquely identify users in a way that other analytics services cannot.
Opera ( State of the Mobile Web Monthly Report )
Opera publishes monthly information on usage of the Opera Mini browser.
Quantcast ( Inside Quantcast (Blog?) | August 2010 Mobile OS Share )
Quantcast is an audience measurement company. They have a helpful post that explains their mobile web measurement methodology. Quantcast also provided an extremely detailed look at 2009 mobile web traffic in a 35 page report. Let’s hope they do the same for 2010.
Ground Truth ( Mobile Internet Usage Builds Throughout the Day )
Ground Truth provides mobile measurement tools by gathering data from carriers. They occasionally publish data on their blog. For example, a recent post showed that “32 percent of page views occur between 7 p.m. and midnight, peaking at 9 p.m.
Device Atlas ( Device Atlas Data Explorer )
Device Atlas doesn’t provide usage data, but what does provide is a data explorer that can be used to look at the characteristics of mobile devices. What to know what percentage of Blackberry phones have a 240 pixel screen? Match those two properties in the data explorer to find out. Keep in mind that Device Atlas is telling you how many Blackberry models have a 240 pixel screen, not how many people are using those phones right now. Still, this is great resource if you’re trying to determine mobile device classes.
Tera-WURFL ( Tera-WURFL Explorer )
This isn’t strictly a metrics resource. Instead, it allows you to enter a user agent string and see what information WURFL has on file for that device.
Comscore ( Dec 2010 Market Share Report )
With every survey that Comscore publishes, they also publish information on the percentage of mobile phone subscribers in the United States that are accessing the mobile web.

Mobile web articles I find interesting

Like the demographic information, I’ve bookmarked some one off articles that are interesting, but I can’t call them a source for mobile web data because they’ve only published one or two pieces of information.

Mobile Web Usage: Smartphone Drives 600% Growth; BlackBerry Takes Lead, Wi-Fi Access Going Strong
This is interesting to me because Bango has always shown more Blackberry usage than other analytics companies. This was from Feb 2010, but at that time, Blackberry was the top web browser client in their network which you don’t see in other reports. Also, 600% growth is insane.
BlackBerry overtakes Apple in Mobile Wars
More recent data from StatCounter indicating that Blackberry caught up in web browsing. Blackberry has always had a fairly large base and unlimited data plans. The only thing holding people back from browsing the web more was the horrid browser. With Blackberry 6, the browser is now webkit-based and consequently Blackberry usage has gone up.
In Defense of Blackberry
Percent Mobile explains why Blackberry is often under reported. If you can’t tell, I like articles that make you question conventional wisdom.
Mobile Web Surfers Visit 24 Sites Per Day!
Also talks about time of day and what types of sites were visited.
PercentMobile Maps – 2nd Quarter 2010
Cool maps showing what devices are being used in what parts of the world.
Orange says UK mobile users prefer browsers to apps
I’ve tired of the mobile web vs. native debate, but I like to keep stuff like this around for when people claim that apps are all that matter and that the web is dead.
Adobe Says People Prefer Mobile Web, Not Apps
“Respondents favored mobile Web experiences over apps in the products & shopping and media & entertainment categories. 66% said they prefer mobile Web to apps (34%) in these categories.” Download the full report.
Lack of Standardization Around Mobile Web Conventions Presents Hurdles for Mobile Publishers
Talk about an understatement. Everything on the mobile web lacks standardization. This report though looks at mobile web domain naming conventions.
Tumblr Mobile OS web-browsing share
Marco published some data on what Tumblr sees on its network. Data is from May 2010

Advertising networks reports

A few of the mobile advertising companies publish reports on what devices they see on their networks. There are some interesting things that can be found in these reports. At the same time, I feel like the data from these reports is commonly either misunderstood or misused.

The reports are most useful when people take them for what they are. They have inherent sampling bias because every advertising network has some sort areas where they do better and where they don’t. When they offer ads both on the mobile web and inside native apps, the reports are going to skew heavily towards platforms with robust app ecosystems.

The worst data comes from when people try to infer more from the reports than is possible or when the advertising networks use their own networks to do a survey of users.

BTW, two of the ad networks that used to provide information on a regular basis—AdMob and Quatrro Wireless—no longer provide reports as they’ve been bought by Google and Apple respectively.

What these stats are good for

  • Some sense of the relative numbers of devices being used in different geographies.
  • The reach of advertising networks if you’re trying to decide which to use.

What to watch for when you use these stats

  • As mentioned above, the networks all have some sort of bias. Figuring out what it is can be difficult.
  • Beware networks that offer advertising both inside apps and on the mobile web. Usually these networks will only offer advertising inside apps on a couple of platforms (e.g., iPhone and Android) which means those platforms will account for more impressions.
  • Surveys that solicit participants via the ad network that don’t have someone working to balance the data with known demographics are likely to be inaccurate. This is why when companies do any sort of surveying, they have to know the demographics and weight the results to match the complexion of the audience. I’ve seen studies that ask people who responded to ads inside apps how many apps they had installed. By definition, this excludes people who either don’t use apps or don’t use apps that feature advertising on that network.

Advertising network report sources

Millennial Media ( Mobile Mix | S.M.A.R.T. Report | State of the Apps Industry )
Millennial Media is my favorite advertising network report. They are independent. They claim to reach of 80% of the mobile web. And they publish reports monthly. Plus, there are interesting things to find in the reports. For example, the number 9 mobile device in their January 2011 Mobile Mix report is the Samsung Freeform. What’s that device? Well, it’s not Android, Blackberry, or Symbian. It’s a feature phone with a decent browser available with unlimited voice, text and web on MetroPCS for $40/month. Interesting, huh?
JiWire ( JiWire Mobile Audience Insights Report Quarterly )
JiWire provides ads for WiFi hotspots. Lots of traffic through the network.
InMobi ( InMobi Research )
Reports on their network separated by region. Top platforms, devices, and manufacturers.
Mobclix ( Moblix Index )
Monthly infographics based on Mobclix data.
Chitika ( Chitika Insights )
Chitika’s research group chimes in on a lot of different topics. Recent posts have covered the Google/Bing search bar controversy and whether or not Chrome OS is a viable desktop operating system. They look for ways to test these theories using their ad network data. This can lead to good insights, but it can also lead to high profile mistakes such as when they attempted to use their ad network to estimate the number of iPad purchases—even going so far as to create a real time tracker—only to find the numbers were way off when Apple announced real sales numbers.
Mobile Advertising Networks Compared
Infographic comparing the various networks in December 2010.
mobiThinking guide to mobile advertising networks (2011)
Data and profiles on the various networks to help you pick a network.

Apps metrics

Because of the popularity of app stores and the success developers have had selling apps, there is a LOT of information about app usage. Much of it comes from services providing analytics to app developers.

What these stats are good for

  • Understanding how people are using apps..
  • Helping to determine your app strategy.

What to watch for when you use these stats

  • Like all of the other statistics, understanding the source of the data. Is it a survey? What was the methodology? What platforms were included in the source data?

App metric sources

Distimo ( Publications | App Stores)
Most comprehensive monthly report covering the major mobile app stores. They also keep track of all of the available app stores.
Wireless Industry Partnership (WIP) ( App Store Reports )
WIP helps connect developers with carriers and handset manufacturers. They recently started tracking all of the app stores available. In addition to being able to find app store info on the WIP site, they provide a monthly report.
Flurry ( Flurry Blog | Android Special Report: Is Samdroid the new Wintel?
Flurry provides analytics for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry and Java ME apps. They also survey developers that are using their analytics on a regular basis and publish the results.
Localytics ( Localytics Blog )
Competitor to Flurry. Their blog has had some great insights lately including the fact that “26% of apps downloaded in 2010 were used just once.”
Xyologic ( Facebook | Twitter )
Xyologic provides insight for developers and businesses. Unless you are a customer, it is easiest to follow them on Twitter or Facebook to learn about new articles or research.
App Genome Project
This is a fairly new report. It says, “The App Genome Project is the world’s largest mobile application dataset created to map the anatomy of mobile applications across multiple mobile platforms and app markets. To date, the project has analyzed more than 500,000 Android and iOS applications.”
Sizing up the Global Mobile Apps Market
Report by Chetan Sharma on the app market.
AndroLib ( Android Marketplace Metrics )
Number of apps, paid vs. free, total downloads in the Android Market.
148Apps.biz ( iPhone App Store Metrics
Number of app, paid vs. free, total downloads, most popular categories, etc.
Urban Airship ( 2010 Mobile App Developer Survey Results )
Urban Airship provides push notification and in app purchasing tools. They published a developer survey in December that was interesting. They also have a unique perspective on what is happening when it comes to push notifications and in app purchases. Thus far they haven’t published an reports, but I’m keeping my eye out for them. [Full disclosure: I'm on the board of advisors for Urban Airship and keep bugging them to publish data. :-) ]
Pew Research ( Rise of the ‘Apps Culture’ )
Pew research into app usage and culture
Comscore ( Dec 2010 Smartphone Report )
Each smartphone report contains a note on the percentage of US phone users who download apps.
Mobclix ( Mobclix Index )
Mobclix monthly infographics have recently included the Monthly Value of an App User and the Android Marketplace.

Other fun sources

There are some resources that span multiple categories but need to be included somewhere. They go here.

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends ( Top 10 Mobile Internet Trends Feb 2011 )
Mary Meeker was a long time analyst for Morgan Stanley and published yearly reports on Internet trends. She now works for venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. Her slide decks are legendary for their density and information. Must read.
Tomi Ahonen ( An 8 Segment Model to Analyze Smartphone Market, Consumers and Handsets | All the Numbers, All the Facts on Mobile the Trillion-Dollar Industry. )
I listed Tomi in the market share section because he talks about market share most often. But Tomi covers a lot of other areas when it comes to mobile. He is some times crazy and always too verbose, but there is a lot of good stuff on his blog. In particular, I wanted to highlight his post called An 8 Segment Model to Analyze Smartphone Market, Consumers and Handsets There are few things more frustrating for me than reading someone write about the mobile market assuming that everyone is evaluating phones the same way there are. I’m not saying Tomi’s model is correct, but reading it helps you understand that a certain percentage of people are going to make finding a phone with the best possible keyboard a priority even if the keyboard doesn’t matter to you.
Mobile Phone Development by Simon Judge ( Mobile Market Research )
Simon’s blog tracks many of the studies that come out. His Mobile Market Research page contains an archive of market share and other information going back several years.
Yiibu ( Mobile Web Reference )
Yiibu is a small development company led by Stephanie and Brian Rieger. Their Mobile Web Reference page contains quite a few resources. In fact, had I remembered they had this page, I might have been saved from writing this epic post.
My Pinboard Bookmarks ( Statistics | Demographics )
I’ve bookmarked a lot of mobile articles. You can follow new entries on Pinboard.

Which stats should you care about?

Depending on what type of business you have and your role, the mobile statistics that you care about are different. Figuring out what questions matter to you is the first step in finding the statistics that will help you make decisions.

App developers

App developers need to figure out where they have the best chance to sell their apps or make money from advertising. In particular, developers are often trying to determine which platform to develop for first.

Because the factors that make an app successful are not necessarily the same ones that make a platform dominate, market share and sales numbers don’t matter as much. Developers will probably weigh the benefits of building something for an established market like iOS where development is easier but the competition is more intense with the opportunities of new markets like Windows Phone 7.

App developers need to look at the app store metrics, advertising data and demographic information (particularly for things like adoption of location-based services).

Web developers

Web developers are accustomed to being able to look at high-level statistics on browser market share and screen resolution and make educated decisions about what platforms they need to support. If they are working on an existing site, there is likely existing analytics that can be used.

When it comes to mobile web, there aren’t the same easy answers. Existing analytics on a desktop site are not going to provide much insight into how a site will be used once it is mobile optimized. Some analytics systems don’t even handle mobile web very well.

Aggregate information on mobile web usage is also problematic because it requires site owners to add server side alternatives to the normal javascript-based analytics code. Finally, global numbers on mobile browser usage may not match the target customer base.

In addition to reviewing mobile web metrics, web developers should also look at demographics to try to match their target audience to the devices they are likely to use. The installed base of phones can also be useful.

The ultimate data comes from the customers of a web site or service. The more you can learn about what devices they are using and how they are using them, the better you can target your efforts.

Marketing

From a pure marketing perspective, you’re going combine your objectives with demographics, installed base and advertising information to determine where to spend your money.

Investors

They should obviously look at financial information, but looking at trends in sales market share also makes sense as an indicator of how companies are competing against others in the market.

Your role here

The point of this list wasn’t to be definitive about what anyone in particular should be concerned with. The data that matters to you should be determined by your interest and objectives when it comes to mobile.

I track a lot of mobile statistics, but I know the ones I care about and why I care about them. They matter because of the type of work I do and my theories on what will happen in the mobile market. (And yes, I’ll write about them in a separate post soon).

But the data that matters to you may not be the ones that matter to someone else. Assuming they should care about the same things you do is the most common mistake I see people make when trying to understand what is happening in the mobile market.

6 Comments on “A “Comprehensive” Guide to Mobile Statistics”

  1. Tim Murphy says:

    I too am a fan of the Adobe and Orange studies. We recently featured an article in our Benchmark magazine on Apps v. Browser http://keynote.com/benchmark/mobile_wireless/article_the_mobile_dilemma.shtml it also highlights two data sources that may be interesting to your audience. Keynote MITE gives can let users know about device / content compatibility on over 1,800 devices for free. We also publish mobile performance indices (http://www.keynote.com/keynote_competitive_research/) that’ll let you see the weekly average download times and availability of many popular mobile websites (once again, free).

  2. Nice work, Jason! I would add that, for the sales market share, that it is important who those devices were sold to. Generally, devices are sold from a manufacturer to a channel, not to a customer. Microsoft, for instance, reported 2 million Win Phone 7 sales, which were sales of Win Phone 7 into the carrier channel, not to end consumers. For all we know carriers have two million units sitting on their shelves.

  3. James Pearce says:

    Superb article / list – certainly reminds all-comers that this is a non-trivial science.

    One thing I find interesting is the feedback loop – or self-fulfilling prophecy – of mobile traffic and user-experience:

    e.g. if an influential site designs a web site that looks great on platform X, then there will be more traffic on platform X, which in turn persuades the developer to spend more time developing for platform X.

    I am fairly sure this was present as at least a second order effect with iPhone web traffic & usage. Build a site that looks great on iOS -> don’t be surprised if that’s then where all your traffic appears to be coming from.

    (Conversely, this illustrates the challenge that any significant new platform has to overcome and is probably why most browsers scramble to mimic even non-standard aspects of early market leaders, such as viewport meta tags etc)

  4. virgip says:

    This article is simply awesome, thank you so much for it.

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