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Lies, damn lies, and statistics

Like a lot of mobile software developers, we track which handsets and operating systems are most popular. It’s critical to our business to understand which platforms have market share, are in ascendancy, decline and so on.  That’s the reason I read Royal Pingdom’s study of mobile OS usage so carefully this morning.  Region by region, they’ve dissected data on which devices are used to access the mobile web.

It shows some initially surprising results.  For example:

  • Canada is the top country in the world for iOS usage, with 83.7% of Canadian mobile web access coming from iPhone or iPod touch.   The US doesn’t rank in the top 10 at all.
  • Canada doesn’t rank in the top 10 at all for mobile web access via BlackBerry.  We’re the home of RIM, but apparently Canadians aren’t using the company’s products.
  • Android doesn’t seem to have anywhere near the momentum that many pundits have been saying for the last couple of months.

What to make of these results?

  1. They don’t tell you anything about market share, or application usage.  Pingdom’s survey was based on web traffic, not number of units sold.  Devices like iPhone, which make mobile web usage extremely accessible, are therefore going to rank much higher than devices with a less accessible experience – ie. BlackBerry.   If you’re a mobile developer you can’t use these numbers as a proxy for today’s market share.
  2. As developers, however, we also want to know what platforms are in ascendancy.  One thesis you might make is that mobile web usage might be a proxy for future market share.  You would be assuming that the mobile web will drive handset purchase.  In that case, it’s clear that momentum is behind iOS and Android.  In that circumstance, a plot of handset market share vs handset share of web usage should show quite clearly which handsets have momentum, and where market share might be going.

And here in Soviet Canuckistan, it’s clear that we’re in love with the mobile web.

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