It’s not necessarily for lack of trying. The report [registration required] points out that there are more than 3000 established mobile web device/OS combinations out there. The top ten device/OS combos accounted for only 48 percent of the total traffic, according to Netbiscuits’ Cloud Platform, which handles billions of monthly mobile web impressions from around the globe.
Apple is Still Number One
The number one most-used device is the nearly two-year-old Apple’s iPhone 4S running iOS 6+, with second place held by its sibling, the iPhone 4 with 6+. Samsung’s popular Galaxy S3 with Android 4+ was third.
Netbiscuits CEO Michael Neidhoefer said in a statement that “the top most-used devices for each handset manufacturer are usually older devices,” such as HTC’s top-placed and two-year-old Desire smartphone. He added that, since the “average lifespan of a device is much longer than many companies think,” it would be best not to “abandon testing on ‘older’ devices” since consumers are using them the most.
As if that landscape doesn’t pose enough complications, there’s the issue of “significant variations” between regions and countries. Apple dominates the mobile markets in Australia and Singapore, for instance, but the Top Ten device lists differ in each country. In fact, the report said there weren’t even any Android devices in the Australian Top 10. Additionally, Singapore’s Top Ten list of devices accounts for 62 percent of all users, while Australia’s only reaches 45 percent.
The Android Factor
Other countries also showed differences. In the United Kingdom, for instance, two BlackBerry devices are in the Top 10, with one -- the Curve 8520 -- being in first place, while Apple’s iPad 2 is among the Top 10 in Germany, the first tablet to do so, and there are no BlackBerrys.
While Apple is the number 1 device using the Netbiscuits platform, Android is the most popular operating system. About a third of all global traffic, however, involves devices using Apple’s iOS 6+; 86 percent of Apple users are on this version. But Android users are split, with 56 percent on version 4 and 43 percent on version 2.3+.
By itself, Android is a big factor in the complexity. Neidhoefer noted that Android’s fragmentation has resulted from its open standards and its growth, which means that “web developers cannot treat Android as a single entity with testing conducted on a handful of devices.”
Service-Side, Device Profiles
Yet another factor is that every marketing research report or vendor is touting the need to market across many, if not all, channels. Smartphones and tablets are usually treated as two channels in these exhortations, which don’t take into account that, from the brand’s practical point of view, the “smartphone channel” alone is potentially dozens if not hundreds of device/OS combinations to test. And does the customer experience differ significantly on those many different combos?
To deal with this dilemma of fecundity, the report recommends deploying server-side web services or a device database to detect device profiles. Another possible route, not mentioned in the report, is that HTML5-based applications will live up to their reputations as “develop once, run many” apps, assuming they account for screen sizes and on-board functions.
It’s just one more complexity in an increasingly complex set of outlets for brands. “Those organizations that succeed at delivering a seamless experience across multiple devices will thrive,” Netbiscuits advises. “Those that don’t will cease to be relevant to their customers.”