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January 14, 2011 5:30 PM   Subscribe

Where do you think Apple’s iPhone is the most popular? Where do Nokia’s Symbian phones dominate? How is it going for Android in different parts of the world? What about Blackberry? We’re going to answer all of those questions and more in this article, which will closely examine mobile OS usage across the world.
posted by infini (45 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
mobile OS web usage across the world. FTFY.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:36 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Finally, the stealth Verizon iPhone discussion thread.
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:41 PM on January 14, 2011


Looking at the map, my gut instinct is: rich consumerist countries love iOS. Poorer places love Symbian.

Obviously there's more to it than that, but still...
posted by djgh at 6:01 PM on January 14, 2011


Canada, in spite of being RIM’s home market, isn’t on the top 10 countries for Blackberry. Instead, it’s the number one country for iOS.

I was just thinking it was odd that a RIM product fared so poorly here, Canada has quite a patriotic streak and tends to make claims on things that sometimes aren't even Canadian (see Heritage Minutes). Then I realized the first thing I tend to mentally associate with a Blackberry are those assholes in $1000 suits carrying enormous golf umbrellas that take up 75% of the downtown sidewalks not looking where they're going as they're typing away.
posted by Hoopo at 6:07 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I always make the mistake of thinking the answer to all of those question is "the same."

eg. I was quite surprised when I found out [via Metafilter] that Google isn't the most popular search engine in some first world countries. How could that possibly be?! And, according to immigrants I've met, every second family in New Zealand signs up for the overpriced pile of junk food that is a Chrisco hamper.

Say it ain't so, New Zealanders!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:08 PM on January 14, 2011


tends to make claims on things that sometimes aren't even Canadian (see Heritage Minutes)

Hey fuck you. We invented time goddammit!
posted by inedible at 6:17 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mmm... Um what?
posted by R. Mutt at 6:37 PM on January 14, 2011


Is it "superficial features that mask a lack of openness and user control, which appeals to the short-sighted"?
posted by DU at 6:43 PM on January 14, 2011


No, it's "didn't actually read the question in desperate haste to make sure no smidgeon of doubt was left regarding position against iPhone"
posted by bonaldi at 6:53 PM on January 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


No matter what I think I would be happier on the Washington coast in a cabin, throwing sticks at dogs and chopping firewood.
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 7:01 PM on January 14, 2011


Considering that technology has changed so much in recent years (mainly, the ready availability of easy to use smartphones), I'd be more interested in seeing trends.

If you look at trends, Symbian is in trouble, worldwide. Heck, Android and European iPhones didn't even exist three years ago.
posted by eye of newt at 7:02 PM on January 14, 2011


People keep pronouncing Symbian dead, but I'm still using a Symbian phone (far beyond its predicted life-span) and I'm still reasonably happy with it. Most of the web works, most flash works, I can't find a compelling reason to switch other than better (e.g., any) unicode support. Best of all, Symbian phones synch awesomely well with my Mac.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:08 PM on January 14, 2011


I'd be more interested in seeing trends

You can see trends at StatCounter (which is where the data comes from).
posted by -jf- at 7:09 PM on January 14, 2011


But Symbian is in a unique position as the low revenue, insanely popular choice in most of the world. So they make their money with quantity, and it's unlikely that any other phone manufacturer would even want to challenge them in a difficult market position like that. Maybe something open source like Android will take over eventually as smartphone use spreads to more countries, but right now Symbian is good enough and cheap enough for billions of people.
posted by Kevin Street at 7:13 PM on January 14, 2011


Finally, the stealth Verizon iPhone discussion thread.

Bottom of this thread.
posted by Artw at 7:22 PM on January 14, 2011


These statistics are quite simply not credible... They are based on data gathered from websites which use the "statcounter" analytics service, and clearly there are not enough of those used by mobile web users to give a large enough sample size, especially when broken down by country.

For an example, consider the statistics for Japan 2008-2010: a huge dip in February 2008 for iPhone and PSP vs Docomo and KDDI (which would be expected to be in the lead especially in 2008), an anomaly best explained by a single website with an unusual visitor profile dominating traffic amongst the sites monitored by statcounter.

According to the Statcounter FAQ, they track about 89 million "hits" (which should be similar to page views if their tracker is hit once per page view) in Japan per month (not limited to mobile). A single popular blog in Japan (Gigazine) is estimated to get about twice that number of pageviews, suggesting that the Statcounter tracker is not used by any of the most popular sites in Japan. One of the most popular social networks in Japan, mixi, is estimated to get around 8 billion mobile page views a month.

A small-ish sample size would be fine if it were randomly distributed, but external analytics services are predominantly used by small websites and mobile web usage tends to be skewed to popular large sites, with a large proportion of "typical" users visiting a small number of huge sites (Facebook in US&EU, mixi in Japan).
posted by Morbuto at 7:23 PM on January 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


I don't see why mobile web usage is relevant unless you're a mobile web developer. In particular, you cannot conclude jack shit about actual OS usage based upon these stats, never mind more subtle market questions.

We can however conclude that poor mobile web users are happy using the older Symbian OS that runs on slower hardware, while rich mobile web users prefer iOS and Android. In other words, we're mostly just seeing the wealth disparity amongst early mobile web adopters, plus maybe the impact of slower hardware on browser speeds and usage habits issues.

For example : RIM might very well beat the pants off iOS in Canada, but that's invisible if all it's users are older business types who don't spend all day on the web, less often patronize the tracked sites, etc. Symbian does beat the pants of iOS in Europe, but largely that's among people who cannot afford mobile internet access. etc.

There is however a major issue for Nokia here, namely they better get their shit together on MeeGo, or risk losing the upper end smartphone market.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:24 PM on January 14, 2011


I love devices, I want every one. That 3-D scan with the iphone is fucking awesome. I've spent more for individual video cards than I have for cars.
I'm going to keep posting this where applicable: Frontline: The Merchants of Cool.
posted by vapidave at 8:01 PM on January 14, 2011


As a Canadian user of Nokia and, as of two days ago, Blackberry smartphones, I am in the position of being contrarian among the pod people here who have caused us to equate "phone" and "iPhone." This is a position that I enjoy occupying. But I am still shocked that BB can claim that little of the market here: They aren't iPhone popular, but they are very fucking popular.

Symbian is, incidentally, awesome, depending on what your expectations are requirements are. I have a 6700 slide that SCREAMS with downloads of up to 10mbps on 3.5g, and it takes absolutely beautiful pics on a 5mp Carl Zeiss optics cam. It uses Symbian 3.2 and does it beautifully, with that superb calendar, and everything is ultra snappy. I only got the BB (bold 9780) because my 6700s lacks wifi and I just cannot stand not having a qwerty, but really in many ways the 6700s is the best phone I've ever owned.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:03 PM on January 14, 2011


Smartphone (Wikipedia)
posted by Brian B. at 8:24 PM on January 14, 2011


uncanny hengeman: And, according to immigrants I've met, every second family in New Zealand signs up for the overpriced pile of junk food that is a Chrisco hamper.

Say it ain't so, New Zealanders!


Personally, I don't know anyone who has ever signed up for one of those. They tend to target poorer families who unfortunately tend not to do the calculations on exactly how much they are paying in total, the same as the mobile vans that sell overpriced rubbish at extortionate interest rates directly to poor families. It all seems to be part of an industry designed to put poor families into debt and keep them there, paying absurd interest rates.

Some places here will loan you money at interest rates as high as 10% a week (with the words per week in a very small font below the huge 10% on the signs outside), but I assume that this is not unique to New Zealand.
</offtopic>
posted by netd at 8:25 PM on January 14, 2011


I like how they're also counting every iPod in their tally of the most popular smartphone. No wonder Apple's got inflated numbers.
posted by kafziel at 8:44 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nokia (=Symbian) seems to be one of the only trusted brands in China because it's affordable (they're selling $30-$500 phones and everything in between) and, as with the rest of the world, most people have a good experience with the product. I don't know if Noka explicitly tests their phones for toilet flushability but they seem to past that and many other tests.

When I bought an Android phone a little over a year ago people thought I was crazy buying this "HTC" doohicky. It's slowly changing, but when I left six months ago people were still more willing to spend $300-400 for the latest E/N-series Nokias than on an Android. This might have something to do with the locally marketed Android phones sucking (Motorola is selling "new" models with Android 1.5 and no Market). I bought my Italian HTC Magic the grey market-friendly website Taobao.com.

And all of this is to say nothing of people spending $800 on iPhones before China Unicom started officially selling them (w/o WiFi) for 20-30% over US prices.
posted by trinarian at 9:11 PM on January 14, 2011


another side thought - one of the most peculiar things I've ever seen is a knock-off Android. There's a thriving market for shanzhai/knock-off/"cottage industry" phones in Huaqiangbei, a district in Shenzhen. Some are truly unique, with built in TV reception or can hold multiple SIM cards. About a year ago you'd walk around and see clones of the G1, Magic, Hero and other early models. They were running their own indiginous OS mocked up to look like Android - complete with the little clock and pull tab of early Android versions. They would use the same system to emulate the UI of iOS, Symbian, and WinMob. "But you don't need a fake OS, Android is free and open source," never had any resonance with the sales clerks.

As I wrote on another thread, one of the most inspiring things I've seen in China is two 20-something guys at a Starbucks designing an Android phone on their laptops. All the parts can be ordered from the same vendors who sell to HTC and the other biggies, factories are for hire to assemble the parts, they just need the schematics and code.
posted by trinarian at 9:23 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


More interesting would be developer revenue per platform - in that field, iOS and Android utterly rule everything, mostly due to their "App Store" and "Marketplace" online stores for software. It doesn't hurt that Apple and Motorola and HTC, massively innovative hardware makers, are going head-to-head.

Meanwhile, Symbian is on the ropes. The developers hate developing for it. But... Nokia is also a massively innovative hardware developer, and they have this Linux workstation OS that's super easy to develop for.

This time next year, as the hardware specs drift downwards, MeeGo will start appearing everywhere in the developing world. You can sell a thousand $5 games on iOS, five thousand $3 games in Marketplace, or a million twenty-cent games in MeeGo's store (whatever it will be called).
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:44 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


More interesting would be developer revenue per platform

This.

This will go nowhere very soon, once market saturation is achieved, unless ( Imho only) one of the major barriers to the equivalent boom that the PC enjoyed a few decades ago is lowered. That is, the standardization (or even stabilization) of the mobile platforms long enough for the kind of interoperability we enjoy online or even, offline. Granted it took years for a PC to be able to talk to a Mac, but unless the hopes pinned on MeeGo come to fruition, it seems to be a toss up between Symbian (as she stands today, in sheer numbers) or Android (if these figures are anything to go by).

This time next year, as the hardware specs drift downwards, MeeGo will start appearing everywhere in the developing world. You can sell a thousand $5 games on iOS, five thousand $3 games in Marketplace, or a million twenty-cent games in MeeGo's store (whatever it will be called).
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:44 PM on January 14


While I am in total agreement with the basic premise of the size and potential of the opportunity space, as well as the trending, I'd just hesitate a moment, myself, before confidently predicting this very same outcome, if only due to a sense of concern over Nokia's strategic direction finding at this point in time. One wonders if they've lost their sense of smell when it comes to the emerging market opportunities in Africa and elsewhere for some reason, given their recent blundering around blindly of late.
posted by infini at 10:37 PM on January 14, 2011


hoopo: "the first thing I tend to mentally associate with a Blackberry are those assholes in $1000 suits"

RIM started out by selling it product to assholes in $3,000 suits; then it extended its market to encompass assholes in $1,000 suits who wanted to emulate their bosses. For several years rest of us tolerated it when the assholes boasted about their gadgets; we also gave them expensive bespoke technical support. Now RIM would like the rest of us to emulate the assholes. That - rather than anything technological - is the heart of their marketing problem.
posted by rongorongo at 3:00 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


That - rather than anything technological - is the heart of their marketing problem.

Aspirational marketing is one of the best strategies in the world. What their real problem will be is when the masses do adopt blackberries and the assholes in expensive suits have to find a new class marker. BB still has the reputation that they are what busy, serious people use, which is still a better niche than 'can't get an iphone on your carrier so get an android' and 'hey here comes Microsoft with their thing'.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:16 AM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


rongorongo, you've got a major point and I think that would be sufficient to explain their declining position. But they've got other problems, not least being that they can't leverage community support as well as the Android vendors and Apple can do. Plus, there are a number of Android phones that seem to be designed to appeal to that Serious. Business. User. demographic.

I think RIM will be an Android vendor in a year or two.
posted by lodurr at 7:44 AM on January 15, 2011


These numbers are spurious because they leave out the millions of 3G iPads out there, which are as much mobile devices as any other 3G or Wi-Fi device.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:08 AM on January 15, 2011


Well, I'm pretty happy with my penta-band Nokia N8 with 16GB internal and 32GB expansion slot and the Zeiss 12MP camera (with a button) and the Bluetooth 3.0 and USB on-the-go, FM transmitter, firmware OTA and stuff and no-need-to-jailbreak, etc.
posted by psyche7 at 10:15 AM on January 15, 2011


These numbers are spurious because they leave out the millions of 3G iPads out there, which are as much mobile devices as any other 3G or Wi-Fi device.
  1. Since the dominance is split between iOS and Symbian and falls out on economic lines, I fail to see how the inclusion of iPads would change the key findings;
  2. furthermore, I'd argue that one ought to exclude iPads, since they are not phones. This is about phones, not "mobile devices."
  3. Hand- and pocket-portable (i.e., small) devices like the iPod Touch and smaller WiFi Android devices (see Archos) are much more significant than the iPad for this discussion, and at least the iPod Touch is in there. (Android WiFi would not be worth including in this report.)
  4. There's no evidence to suggest that iPads are used like phones in any significant numbers, and the form factor suggests that people probably wouldn't use them as phones because it would be really clumsy to do so and anyway, anywhere you've got your iPad, you've also got your phone.
posted by lodurr at 10:52 AM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The reason iOS dominates the Canadian marketplace, particularly when you're counting via web statistics, is that until recently data plans of any kind were prohibitively expensive (as in, insanely expensive) and the only phones sold in stores were leftovers and also-rans being recycled from European telcos.

The thing that changed that, and forced semi-affordable data rates in Canada was the iPhone. For about two years there, you simply could not buy a data plan that made any kind of sense for any other phone and there were simply no other phones worth owning.

We have some of the most backwards, uncompetitive, laggard telcos in the world here, is what it boils down to.
posted by mhoye at 10:59 AM on January 15, 2011


This is about phones, not "mobile devices."

Not according to the article, which aims to measure "mobile web usage". By that measure, iPads should be included and Apple's numbers are underrepresented. But I suspect the real reason iPads are left out is because there isn't any significant tablet competition out there yet, and probably won't be anything for another 6-12 months. It would be "unfair" to include the iPad.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:03 AM on January 15, 2011


It would be irrelevant to include the iPad, since it wouldn't affect the key findings.

And I remain unconvinced that 10" tablets are "the mobile web" in anything like the same way as a phone. When I see people whipping them out on streetcorners to do AR orientation, then I'll think of changing my view.

5" and 7" tablets might change that game. They're enough smaller that people can actually carry them and pull them out conveniently. (I'm constantly hearing stories of people who've traded in their iPad for a Samsung Galaxy because they can carry the Galaxy in a coat pocket or a purse.) Several years from now we'll know the answer to that; right now, I'm having a really hard time imagining that adding those numbers would make a difference.

Put another way: Complaining about iPads being omitted is a bit like complaining about the omission of Safari from browser stats when you're trying to figure out whether to browser-customize a site targeting stock traders: It's just not worth the trouble.
posted by lodurr at 11:09 AM on January 15, 2011


The article says it's looking at handsets, for mobile OS usage. A 3g iPad is no more a mobile device than a Windows laptop with one of Sprint's broadband cards in it, and including those things would make these numbers even more irrelevant.
posted by kafziel at 11:12 AM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It would be irrelevant to include the iPad, since it wouldn't affect the key findings.

If iPads were taken into account, it would make Android usage lower. That would certain upset a few people.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:59 AM on January 15, 2011


It would make Android usage even lower, you mean. It would have no impact on the key insight, which is that iPhones are dominant in places where people have more money and Symbian phones in places where they have less money.

Not every discussion involving Apple products is a pro- or anti-Apple discussion.
posted by lodurr at 1:03 PM on January 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Not every discussion involving Apple products is a pro- or anti-Apple discussion.

That is the most anti-Apple statement I've ever read.
posted by found missing at 1:50 PM on January 15, 2011


And I was so hoping we could talk about the rest of the world and not just where Apple has bothered to sell or is even affordable...
posted by infini at 4:28 PM on January 15, 2011


This time next year, as the hardware specs drift downwards, MeeGo will start appearing everywhere in the developing world. You can sell a thousand $5 games on iOS, five thousand $3 games in Marketplace, or a million twenty-cent games in MeeGo's store (whatever it will be called).

I'm actually (and surprisingly) a mobile developer now, with some data on my own experience, so take this for what it's worth:

iOS sales are many time that of Android. Android people are loud but it doesn't feel like many of them buy. Plus, it really is pretty expensive to debug all the various phones.

It actually looks like it's really difficult to put together a coherent App Store. Apple seems to have done it on the strength of Steve Jobs telling everyone else to screw off. Will Nokia be able to do this with MeeGo? Perhaps, but I'm doubtful. Certainly not to the degree that an app will sell 1,000 times better because they did that great a job.
posted by effugas at 6:34 PM on January 15, 2011


"Symbian is, incidentally, awesome, depending on what your expectations are requirements are. I have a 6700 slide that SCREAMS with downloads of up to 10mbps on 3.5g, and it takes absolutely beautiful pics on a 5mp Carl Zeiss optics cam. It uses Symbian 3.2 and does it beautifully, with that superb calendar, and everything is ultra snappy. I only got the BB (bold 9780) because my 6700s lacks wifi and I just cannot stand not having a qwerty, but really in many ways the 6700s is the best phone I've ever owned."

And really this is why Apple and Google were able to clock Nokia and its feature-phone price-discrimination maximum value extraction mentality over the head. Why throw all that effort into making an awesome phone and not include wifi? Well it's the 6800 that has wifi (but no camera, or calendar, or whatever feature they decided to remove to sell the NEXT model).

Ugh, and that's why Nokia will never get another dollar of my money again. And don't even get me started on Sony-Ericcson.
posted by stratastar at 10:54 PM on January 15, 2011


Not every discussion involving Apple products is a pro- or anti-Apple discussion.

I didn't say it was. But the surveyors are underreporting Apple's numbers by leaving out iPads, which are often mobile devices used to browse the web. At least the 3G models can make that claim — it's why people pay extra for the 3G feature.

As for your "key insight" there's nothing in this survey that associates Symbian with income. Otherwise, parts of the Middle East, Japan, South Korea and Pacific Rim would light up blue.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:40 AM on January 16, 2011


As for your "key insight" there's nothing in this survey that associates Symbian with income.

Imho, this is not any particular individual's "key insight" - its the result of a strategic decision taken in the early 2000s by Nokia to focus on emerging markets. The 1100 was the result, and it changed the landscape of the mobile market across the developing world. The rest of the outcomes, both social and economic you can find in my previous via tags.
posted by infini at 5:16 AM on January 16, 2011


If iPads were taken into account, it would make Android usage lower. That would certain upset a few people.

Why? With all the choice out there who would possibly care what is selling more or less?

Apple's feel good video, clearly forecasts, at about 2:45 that AT & T was a future partner. Watch Apple's marketing for more inside information?
posted by juiceCake at 7:07 PM on January 19, 2011


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