Meditations on programming, startups, and technology
New Relic

On the iPhone, iPad and Android Market Share

There has been quite a bit of discussion over the market share of mobile devices today (arguably, for the past few years). It all started with a link on TechCrunch, claiming that Android overtook the iPhone in terms of US traffic (according to AdMob). This being a clear case of selection bias, I set about to figure out the mobile devices used by the visitors of some of my sites during the past month.

As these figures will obviously depend on the type of audience that a site attracts, I put the following three sites on the table as samples (the first two are mine, the last one is my wife’s). All three sites have a predominantly North American audience, but they aren’t lacking for international readers either. This is not meant to be a scientific survey, just a quick way to gather some empirical data and satisfy my (and perhaps your) curiosity. It’s also important to understand that the “market share” here is not actually the market share of all mobile devices sold, but rather limited to those normally used for web browsing.

Let’s start with the data for this site which obviously has a very technical audience:

Next are the results for Math Blog, with has a geeky, but less technical audience.

Finally, my wife’s blog which is devoted to all things vintage. Her audience is generally non-technical and prominently comprised of female visitors.

A few thoughts on this data:

  • No matter how we look at it, the iPhone is still much more popular than Android, particularly among technical people. If we consider all the devices running iPhone OS, the outlook is even less encouraging for Android OS.
  • These numbers suggest that Android probably has a 10 to 20% “web usage share” amongst mobile devices.
  • In one month, the iPad managed to grab a 5 to 10% slice of the mobile pie. Assuming we are OK with grouping it together with smart phones and PDAs, I suspect its share will become much larger in the coming months.

Android offers you a great degree of freedom, compared to the iPhone OS due to Apple’s draconian policies. But the market share for Android still seems to be somewhat small (at least according to the, admittedly limited, figures above). This may change in the future, if and when the number of popular devices that run Android continues to grow (which would include alternatives to the iPad).

With Android still having a long way to go before it catches up with the iPhone OS, which of the two would you develop for, assuming you could only pick one?

If you enjoyed this post, then make sure you subscribe to my Newsletter and/or Feed.

receive my posts by email

6 Responses to “On the iPhone, iPad and Android Market Share”

  1. Daniel says:

    Yes, TC gave it a pretty bad spin. Ad-related traffic has very little to do with market share once you consider several factors involved.

    I’m not sure this is even worth writing a post about (discussion on news aggregators seems to be more than enough for me), but still I’m thankful for you posting those figures, that’s interesting material. I’m particularly impressed that iPhone’s share is bigger the more tech-savvy the site. I’m guessing there are two factors at play:

    • The share of mobile visitors (compared to non-mobile) is probably a lot smaller on the less technical websites, so it could be that the iPhone isn’t really less popular, just that those visitors care less about using browsing the web through their phone.
    • Many of your visitors on this blog are Ruby enthusiasts, which are in big part also Apple enthusiasts. I wonder what the picture would be on a technical website with less of a bias (if that even exists).
  2. The future is more important than the present, so the answer is Android, because open usually wins.

  3. Picking a platform has nothing to do with absolute market share numbers, but rather with viability.

    Viability of the platform itself, on one hand, since no-one likes to play music in the deck of the Titanic (*cough*palm*cough*).

    And viability for yourself, which mostly mean whether you can get enough rewards for your efforts.

    Once certain thresholds are crossed, which admittedly are very fuzzy lines, you can pick your platform based on other factors besides pure market share… such as, say, freedom of carrier choice and freedom of distribution.

  4. To answer your last question: I think it depends on the kind of application. Obviously developing for iPhone could mean reaching a wider audience whilst developing for Android could mean more “room” for developers to write apps that do not exist yet. I never tried either of the dev kits (I’d love to though) and I am still trying to figure out which smartphone to get for myself :-)

  5. Notice that WebOS (Palm Pre) is missing from your stats. Maybe not any visitors to your site? Or maybe because the browser is so similar (both Webkit based) they got lumped into the iPhone stats?

  6. I just voted for Android, specifically the Verizon Droid Incredible. Yes, as a developer I much prefer the thought of Android. But my mobile traffic is mostly iPhone, and my site is quite technical as well.

    I’ve been with Verizon for a long time, and I’ve gotten used to their coverage. If they had an iPhone when it first came out, I might have gotten one. In fact, even if they had an iPhone now, I might have gotten one. But it was time to get a smart phone, and the Incredible looked like the best Verizon had, and looks like a more comfortable phone to develop on. So that’s the way I went.

Leave a Reply

I sincerely welcome and appreciate your comments, whether in agreement or dissenting with my article. However, trolling will not be tolerated. Comments are automatically closed 15 days after the publication of each article.

Copyright © 2005-2014 Antonio Cangiano. All rights reserved.