PPK over at the QuirksMode blog recently wrote a rant titled The iPhone Obsession where he berates developers for focusing on the building mobile sites that are targeted towards well on the iPhone. To make his point, he uses the following statistics


Let’s illustrate that last remark with some smartphone sales stats:

  1. Nokia: 39%
  2. RIM: 20% (BlackBerry)
  3. Apple: 15% (this 15% is obviously far more important than the previous 59%)
  4. HTC: 5%
  5. Other: 21% (Samsung is expected to make a major jump this year)

Source: Morgan Stanley Mobile Internet Report (48Meg PDF) p. 160

And here are the smartphone OS stats, also from Tomi Ahonen (whose blog I highly recommend, by the way):

  1. Symbian: 45% (all of Nokia plus a bit of SonyEricsson and Samsung)
  2. BlackBerry: 20%
  3. iPhone: 15% (this 15% is obviously far more important than the previous 65%)
  4. Windows Mobile: 6% (HTC, Samsung, SonyEricsson)
  5. Android: 4% (HTC, Samsung, SonyEricsson, Motorola, Google)
  6. Other: 10% (Various Linux builds, Palm, as well as really obscure stuff. Will be reinforced by Samsung Bada during this year.)

Despite the platform having only 15% sales market share we all want our mobile websites to look exactly like an iPhone app and we only want to use iPhone features.

Although these statistics seem persuasive they are actually totally useless when it comes to arguing the point of which browsers mobile developers should target. Ownership of a mobile phone doesn’t directly equate to using it for browsing the web. The important metric is the smartphone OS breakdown among people who actually use the mobile web on their phones.

You can get these stats easily from AdMob's mobile metrics report which is based on measuring ad impressions across various mobile sites across various smartphone OSes. These metrics paint a very different picture from the sales data as shown below

OS share

According to these stats, the iPhone OS is actually the major source of traffic for the mobile web in most continents except for Africa and Asia. What this tells you is that developers aren’t being stupid when they try to ensure their sites work well on the iPhone.

That said, I agree that it is a bad idea for developers to specifically target features of a particular browser versus using web standards. However that is different from making sure your site works well in the most popular platform used for browsing mobile websites in your particular market.



Tuesday, February 9, 2010 4:19:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Wow! I was surprised by that. As a Symbian web user, I thought that the greater Symbian market share would translate directly to greater web usage.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010 5:07:17 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Great point — finally some data. You might want to make column width proportional to some metric on how big the market is in each continent. I'm not sure what would make sense, but that might explain the bias even more.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010 5:50:57 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
15% of users are on iphone, but what % of MOBILE WEB VIEWS are iphone? You missed this, the most important stat :-)

Did you try to use the web on symbian? If you have you know that 39% doesn't really mean anything since those people have to tear their hair out, perform animal sacrifice, and cast spells, just to get a web page open. ;-)
Tuesday, February 9, 2010 5:53:03 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I applaud your added statistics; but I think your argument misses the point a bit on PPK's article. He wasn't arguing that developers shouldn't care about the iPhone or shouldn't optimize for it; his argument was about a false-belief that any single browser is ubiquitous in the mobile space. Creating a mobile version shouldn't be about creating an iPhone version any more than creating a desktop version is about creating an IE version (or Firefox version, or Chrome version, etc.)

The extra statistics are great; but they actually support the argument of the original article.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010 6:50:43 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
You missed another important statistic: How many of those Mobile OS's block ads with their browser? How many of them allow for ad impressions?

Ad impressions are the worst possible metric to use.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010 6:54:31 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Seems you're using the same manipulation of statistics :P

You slight the Africa/Asia statistics as if they aren't that important. One problem: Asia is BIG. If you look at the full AdMob report, you'll see that iPhone only accounts for 36% worldwide. Not the smaller 15% PPK mentioned, but not your "major source of traffic", either.

(AdMob article and direct link to PDF report)

I agree with Brian, though, the point of the original article was that mobile web dev is tending toward iPhone-only testing, much like the IE6-only testing we had a decade ago. I don't necessarily agree with this point, as I'm not familiar with the mobile dev scene, but that was the point I got from his article.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010 6:55:27 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Except this statistic *is* mentioned in the original article:

"But Safari iPhone has about 50% of mobile internet traffic market share! You can’t ignore that, can you?"
Tuesday, February 9, 2010 7:00:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Correction to my first comment: I didn't notice that you were using the second set of graphs, which shows iPhone OS as 51% worldwide. My bad.

Point is you can't just slight a couple data points because they don't support your side :P
Tuesday, February 9, 2010 7:21:38 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
PPK actually acknowledges the high market share of iPhone OS later in the post.

But Safari iPhone has about 50% of mobile internet traffic market share! You can’t ignore that, can you?

Watch me ignore it.

First, so what? ... Since when does web development mean leaving 50% of your mobile users out in the cold? Since when is “I only support browsers with a large market share” a valid argument? ...

Next, I’m not so sure if it’s true. Mobile browser detection is really hard. None of the reports I’ve read so far show how they detect browsers. Lots of mobile browsers have iPhone in their UA strings to work around browser detects that obsessed web developers have set up. Do all traffic market share reporters work around that problem? Most probably do, but we can’t be sure.

Besides, what will happen when the operators abandon the economically untenable flat rate for iPhone data traffic? Will iPhone users maintain their current traffic market share when they have to pay as they go?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 9:41:04 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Next time, read The Fine Article before posting rebuttals.
Thursday, February 11, 2010 8:59:59 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
"That said, I agree that it is a bad idea for developers to specifically target features of a particular browser versus using web standards."

To me, the interesting thing is that if you develop your web app correctly, *using web standards* and with a mobile device in mind, it will work wonderfully on iPhone, Android, WebOS as well as other webkit and standards-based mobile browsers...with just 1 code-base.

The ironic thing is that using web standards (CSS and javascript (de facto)) virtually ensures that your mobile web app won't work well under Symbian, RIM and Windows Mobile devices. The browsers on those devices are woefully behind when it comes to web standards.

And I should know. I'm in the process of productizing a mobile web app product. No choice but to code for iPhone, Android, WebOS, Opera and then also code for RIM, Symbian and IE Mobile.

So, to me, the fault lies at the feet of the mobile OS's that aren't innovating with regard to web standards. Doubling and sometimes tripling my work. Build to the lowest common denominator? No way, no how. Not in today's market.
John Walker
Friday, February 12, 2010 10:14:40 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
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Saturday, February 13, 2010 10:07:16 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
One thing iPhone has above everything else is iPod Touch: a wifi-enabled device with the same browser and screen resolution. This gives it a common platform bigger than lots of others. People should really include the iPod Touch numbers when they look at mobile device traffic -or split them out in the stats.
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