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Which Mobile Platform(s) Should I Target?

Last time, we left you to ponder whether a mobile app is right for your business. You listened to us, pondered, and have now concluded a mobile app is definitely in your future. So, what’s next? Should you focus on one mobile platform? Several? How should tablets weigh in your decision?

First, let’s look at the most recent market share figures for both smartphones and tablets. These figures are hot off the press:

U.S. Marketshare Figures - July 2011 (via Nielsen)
Platform Smartphone Share Tablet Share
Android 39% 9%
iOS (iPhone) 28% 82%
RIM (Blackberry) 20% -
Windows Mobile/WP7 9% -
Palm 2% -
Symbian OS 2% -
Other - 9%*

Android, with iOS next in line, is leading the smartphone market after an impressive surge this past year. For tablets, it’s clear that no one’s catching up to iPad yet. Although we wrote a while back of some analysts predicting Android would surpass the iPad in 2011, these figures demonstrate the reality that Android tablets are off to a slow start. (And that the mobile market is not an easy one to analyze.)

Beyond market share figures, let’s also take a look at app usage numbers for smartphones. 30-day stats show iPhone users are the heaviest app downloaders/users, followed by Android.

It’s interesting to note that while Blackberry is third in market share, it’s at the bottom of the heap here, with the average user having one-third as many installed apps as the typical iPhone user has. Of course, that has a lot to do with the relatively limited number of apps available on the Blackberry platform.

(Check out the detailed graphs from Nielsen.)

Mobile App Usage by Platform, April 2011
Platform Average Number of Apps Installed % that Use Apps “Multiple Times Each Day”
iOS 48 68%
Android OS 35 60%
Palm OS 21 48%
Microsoft Windows Mobile 17 29%
Blackberry OS 15 45%

There you have the numbers. Now, here’s what we think they suggest:
  1. If our previous post led you to the carefully considered decision that a mobile app is worth the investment, then it’s probably also worth it to dive in with both Android and iOS apps.
    Android is the market leader for smartphones with no sign of slowing down. iOS no slouch, either.  Apple continues on a path of consistent growth and a new (but small) study asserts that iPhone users are the most brand-loyal.  Finally, the figures above point to iPhone users also being the heaviest app users.   If you’re focused on reaching the highest percentage of the overall smartphone market, you’ll accomplish that by investing in both platforms.
  2. If your budget really does allow for only one platform, consider how your app is most likely to be used.
    Android would be a good place to start if your app is primarily geared towards smartphone use. However, if you feel your app will have value not only to smartphone users, but also to tablet owners, consider iOS.  In addition to the numbers above, April market figures from ComScore show there are 37.9 million
    total devices powered by iOS in the hands of users versus Android’s 23.8 million; that’s 59% more devices when you’re counting phones, tablets, and the iPod touch.
  3. Keep an eye on Palm, RIM/Blackberry, and Windows Mobile/WP7 over the next year.
    When you look at the direction market share has headed quarter to quarter, Palm and RIM don’t show a lot of promise. WP7 can still use the excuse--for now--that it’s a pretty new player. Despite low market share numbers, there’s enough going on with these platforms that we’re not quite ready to write them off as viable options moving forward.  Some recent projections even have
    WP7 overtaking iOS and Blackberry by 2015. Stay tuned!
  4. Pay attention to general market trends, but learn as much as you can about your own customers. 
    The mobile market is evolving quickly, to say the least. Yes, it’s important to maintain a grasp on the overall marketplace. But now’s the time to start monitoring mobile behavior via your company’s own marketing research. Understanding the specifics for your current and prospective customers is hands-down the best way to prioritize strategy.
Next time, we’ll give you an inside look at the apps Far Reach team members use to stay on top of their busy work lives. In the meantime, where do you plan to start with your mobile app development? We’d love to hear about your plans or any research you’ve conducted with your own customers.