Lies, Damned Lies and Mobile Statistics

Okay, I get it. There’s a smidgen of rivalry between the Android and iPhone camps.. Just a teensy bit… but occasionally that leads to the kind of mind-numbingly stupid analysis that I can’t help but comment on.

Case in point, this past week saw a slew of reports and commentary on Android accounting for one quarter of all mobile web traffic (see this search for some of the results). This follows some rather silly back and forth between Apple and Google on the actual number of handset activations (see this Computerworld article for a good example). Jobs felt it necessary to belittle Android’s numbers, Google responded and the whole thing became something of a lesson int the Streisand Effect. I would imagine Mr. Jobs wasn’t looking to provide additional publicity on Android’s growth.

But for once, I have a little bit of sympathy for Apple. Following the aforementioned web traffic reports, there have been a variety of headlines about Android trouncing Apple’s numbers… Android web share is up. Apple web share is down… Android wins… Apple loses… Road to death… Lost their edge… Blah blah blah.

I, for one, am a little tired of sensationalistic journalism based on flimsy (or non-existent) facts.

So is Apple really on the down and out? No. The numbers we are talking about are the share of web browsing done from a mobile device i.e. a single, static pie. Anyone that made it through 8th grade maths probably remembers that all the pieces of the pie have to add up to 100%. If Android is growing (which it clearly is), its percentage of the whole pie will grow, unless everyone else grows at exactly the same rate. And if everything has to add up to 100%, that means some other folks will see a corresponding decrease in their overall traffic share.


So what this really says is that the number of Android devices is increasing faster than the number of iPhones. And that gets right back to sloppy journalism, failing to compare apples to oranges (no pun intended).

To get an idea of how misleading the comparison can be, look at desktop/laptop web browsing. Nine out of ten machines browsing the web are PC’s, not Macs. Aww. Poor Mac. Poor Apple. Will they live?

But wait, let’s look at sales volume by manufacturer rather than by OS… #1 is Dell, #2 is HP and #3? Why, it’s poor little Apple.

Apple’s iPhone product line is essentially a single device from a single manufacturer. Android is an OS with devices from many manufacturers. If Android wasn’t getting to market on many more devices, Google would be doing something wrong.

Furthermore, at this point in time, I don’t think there is a single Android handset manufacturer shipping more units than Apple.

And just in case you were still feeling sorry for Apple, there’s always this little nugget…

In Q2, 2010, Apple had about 3% of the worldwide market for mobile phones. They also had 48% of the profit. No, that’s not a typo. A company with just 3% of the market (by volume of devices sold) captured nearly half the worldwide profit. They made more than twice the profit made by Nokia, and Nokia has 38% of the market. See the full report here.

So Nokia manufactures and sells 12 phones for every iPhone Apple sells. They support 12 customers for every Apple customer. On a day to day basis they do twelve times as much work, and they do it for less than half the money Apple makes.

So don’t believe the bullshit. Apple are doing fine, thank you very much. And so is Android. There’s a lot of fight left in both camps, and deciding the “winner” isn’t just about a simplistic pie chart based on traffic, which is relatively meaningless at the best of times. Certainly not worth going to war over…

2 comments for “Lies, Damned Lies and Mobile Statistics

  1. CBH
    September 9, 2010 at 8:10 am

    And adding to that its not about Mobile for either of these players, its about owning your path to data, data you want, data you own and what you want when you want it. Mobile is just a portal. How much they overlap will determine size and frequency of lawsuits between Apple and Google (direct or indirect – HTC suits).

  2. nicholasnapp
    September 9, 2010 at 9:36 am

    I'm shocked… aren't the lawsuits solely about who's right and who's wrong? Didn't Apple invent most of today's mobile phone technology?

    Surely patents are only ever used for the betterment of mankind and not simple mudslinging?


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