Design & Development

Mobile Internet Devices, By the Numbers

Last week, I reported on how the number of mobile devices is exploding worldwide. But coming up with an estimate for the total number of smartphone handsets sold this year is difficult, and numbers vary depending on the source. A report by Smart Analytics stated 43 million smartphones were shipped worldwide by July 1, 2009. Conversely, international market research firm Research and Markets estimated 159 million smartphones were shipped in 2009.

Part of the reason for the varying numbers is that there is no industry standard definition for “smartphone,” and not all mobile devices that can access the Internet are phones (the iPod touch, for example). The other reason is that many manufacturers have not released fourth quarter 2009 data yet, so the picture may become more complete in the coming months.

Still, compare these numbers with the combined number of desktop, notebook, and ultra-portable computers sold this year—about 8.2 million, according to real-time statistics estimator Worldometers ( which uses IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker as its source

It’s important for merchants interested in reaching mobile customers to know what type of device their viewers are using. That’s why, based on the following criteria, we’ve ranked the overall popularity of mobile operating systems as thus: The two devices using the iPhone OS (iPhone and iPod touch) remain by far the most popular. Whether Android or BlackBerry is more popular depends on whom you ask, but both of these operating systems exceed the market share of Windows Mobile, Palm and other operating systems.

Percentage of 3G Subscribers

A study released Dec. 21 by The Nielsen Company stated the iPhone and BlackBerry 8300 series dominated the market from January to October of 2009. iPhone users made up 4 percent of the total 3G market, followed by BlackBerry users with 3.7 percent, according to the study.

Another interesting finding was the top-accessed websites by mobile users. Google Search, Yahoo! Mail and Gmail were the top three, followed by the Weather Channel and Facebook.

Mobile Advertising

Another way of analyzing operating system popularity is by the percentage of mobile advertisements requested by various devices.

Mobile advertising network AdMob estimates that Apple sold approximately 40 million iPhones and iPod Touches in 2009. AdMob’s November metrics report, which analyzes the number of ad requests sent from each type of handset, stated 26.8 percent of requests were sent from the iPhone and 11.5 percent from iPod Touch. These are the two highest percentages of worldwide ad requests. They greatly exceed the third-ranked HTC Dream (with Android), which held about 3 percent of ad requests in November.

WiFi Access

Most devices can use local WiFi hotspots in addition the 3G network, so looking at WiFi access statistics can be another useful way to determine what devices are most popular with mobile users.

A survey of 2,700 wireless Internet users conducted in early 2009 by WiFi provider Devicescape placed the iPhone as a more popular method of accessing wireless Internet than any other device, including notebook computers.

35 percent of respondents said they use their iPhones most often to connect to the Internet while on the go, while 30 percent said they used their computer. 20 percent said they used their Nokia device, just over 5 percent used Windows Mobile, and approximately 1 percent used BlackBerry.

What This Means for Merchants

Differentiating between the iPhone, Android devices and BlackBerry devices applies more to merchants who want to create apps for their sites. For now, it seems iPhone apps will get more viewers than Android apps. (This may change with time, as the iPhone currently works with just AT&T, while the Android has connected with several different cellular carriers.) App developers seem to share this view—there are more than 100,000 apps in the iPhone store compared to the 20,000 in the Android Market. Others like Palm and BlackBerry have fewer.

Regardless, mobile users should be able to access your online storefront no matter what device they are using. In future articles, we’ll discuss easy ways to make your site more mobile-friendly and greatly decrease the amount of time it takes to load your pages on a mobile device.

Brendan Gibbons
Brendan Gibbons
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