“Smartphones”: market share & usage data

After every quartery release industry analysts, experts and all comment on the latest market share data, based on sales in that timeframe — something a bit misleading if you think about the expression “market share”: in fact, these numbers does not tell much about the actual distribution (i.e. platform share in a given period: look e.g. at the market share of Symbian, RIM and iOS published alongside this FT piece on Nokia CEO troubles, in which you have Symbian declining from over 60% in 2006/2007 to slightly above 40% in 2010, RIM moving from less than 10% in 2006 to 20% in 2010 and Apple iOS raising to something like 15% after the 2009 slightly higher peak; sorry for not being precise but the chart is very small… precious exact figures are missing ofc).

Update: via @tomiahonen I just found a Reuters infographics, Strategy Analytics data, that shows the general dynamic very well.

This is not to say that this information is not important: of course it is, 100%, for a number of obvious reaasons. But there is big but here in my opinion: if we want to look at the “user” side of the coin (end-user or business), then discussing smartphones market share makes sense as long as they are accompanied by some data on the actual usage of the specific capabilities that make them different (supposedly “smart”) when compared to “dumb” phones: i.e. online applications usage, be they related to Web app/mobile sites or native apps. Even in this case, we would still be at a very high level, unless we discuss about some sort of activity or product/service category: e.g. search, games, social networks etc.

To make the point clearer, look e.g. at the chart below, taken from a MocoNews.net post on a recent Pew survey:

In other words: we might well have a relatively small number of iPhones around, but if iPhone users (or Android users, or whatever) are those mostly actively browsing the mobile Web, using and spending on mobile apps, searching and possibly clicking on those paid search ads etc. then this is what matters most from a business and marketing perspective.

Now, data on mobile products/services usage vis-à-vis actual smartphone penetration divided by platform do not seem easily available, at least in the public domain — or am I wrong?

Update (27-7-2010): cf. e.g. these conclusions from a Yankee Group report (Why iPhone matter; premium access only, the following quotation is from the public executive summary): Two-thirds of iPhone owners use the mobile Web daily … Plus, iPhone owners download more apps, are more interested in mobile transactions and conduct more mobile e-commerce than users of other [smartphone platforms I guess — it’s truncated right there!]

PS: I put the quotation marks on smartphones in the post title for the same reason: Wikipedia tells that a smartphone “allows the user to install and run more advanced applications based on a specific platform” and then that they “run complete operating system software providing a platform for application developers”. Still you can use a smartphone pretty much in the same way of a dumb phone, as perhaps one went for it for other reasons than the possibility to use apps, the mobile Web and the likes. In short, couldn’t be this one the case for so many Nokia smartphones around? (especially in Europe) Smartphones are not created equal…

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