Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Current(ish) Smartphone Use

Image of mobile phone showing this site.

I regularly come across reports and studies that talk about how smartphones are a growing platform, outpacing PCs in some markets and/or demographics, essentially re-writing how we use the web. Most of those reports lack hard data or lack solid analysis of that data, however, and fall prey to best guesses from the authors. Today I am linking to three different perspectives and letting you suss them out.

Opera Software, maker of the Opera Mini web browser, conducted an anonymous survey of its Opera Mini users and managed to capture feedback from 300,000 users (State of the Mobile Web, July 2010). The trick here is understanding that the results in the Opera survey are from users who are already online, using smartphones, and have a phone with Opera Mini. Given the number of iPhone users who responded and given that iPhone does not come with Opera pre-installed, it's fair to conclude that the majority of those users are a bit more skilled (or interested) than your average user. The Opera survey found a climb among female users at a pace faster than the climb in male users. Female users still aren't caught up, making up about 23% of the mobile web population. It's interesting to wade through their data to review the 10 most visited sites in a few countries, with Facebook and Google clearly near the top of the pile in the English-speaking countries. The report is worth reviewing just to see the data. While Opera Mini users are a targeted group, 300,000 people is still a good sample size to draw some general conclusions.

Mashable published a less in-depth report, supported by the Samsung Galaxy. There is some interesting data in the article, but some of the analysis is sparse, and in some cases doesn't feel like it hit the mark. It doesn't help that the data comes from late 2009 through January 2010. It focuses on North America and Europe and finds that the UK, France and Germany lead Europe in smartphone adoption rates. The article reminds us that adoption rates aren't the same as overall market penetration — a country with one user that gets a second user sees a 100% adoption rate increase, but no discernible different in the adoption rate. This puts The US above the UK and France for overall penetration, regardless of the difference in adoption rates. This adoption rate growth may simply be a function of cheaper plans. I find the title of the article a bit misleading, too: Why Smartphone Adoption May Not Be as Big as You Think.

This piece from the New York Times, Asia Poised to Transform Global Smartphone Market, takes a different approach. After reading the previous two reports, reading this article provided context for those numbers and assumptions. With my limited time bouncing around Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore, my own anecdotal experiences seem to mesh with some of the statements in this article and frame the numbers cited in the other two pieces pretty well. The discussion of the competition among hardware makers and even mobile networks helps give insight I didn't have. For example, the iPhone has had trouble in China because China's largest (and government-owned) cell provider uses a standard not supported by the iPhone. Instead, the iPhone has been remanded to China's second-largest (and government-owned) cell provider, losing access to 544 million customers. This opened the door for the OPhone, based on Android. While not rife with hard numbers, the article gives some context to numbers from the Opera study, and gives us some new ways to look at the analysis from Mashable.

In case you missed the links in the paragraphs above:

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