The truth about Android vs iOS numbers

Are Google’s Android team leaning on their Analytics colleagues to present their numbers in the best possible light?

or: “Hey Google Analytics, play fair with your Mobile Operating System numbers!”

Google have been shouting about their impressive Android activation numbers for several quarters now (less so since the latest iPhone and iPad I notice). Yet they still need to lean on the Analytics team to present the Android numbers in the best possible light?

Notice how the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch are all regarded as separate ‘Operating Systems’ yet all the myriad devices that run Android (tablets, phones, media players, TVs and whatever else) are all included in that Android number.

And they’re still behind!

Android as a combined entity is still behind the iPhone on its own. What are you afraid of GOOG?

So what are all these Android users doing with their phones?

(Because let’s face it, nobody’s buying the tablets.) What they’re doing with them is exactly the same as what people did when buying feature phones: they took home the shiniest phone the salesperson in the mobile phone operator’s retail store or telesales department would give them for free. Then they’re using them for playing games and sending texts and making phone calls. The things they’re not doing with them: buying apps, buying music or browsing the web. These recent numbers from Adwords alternative Chitika bear that out.

Image credit: Robert Nelson via Creative Commons on Flickr.

Should I mobile optimise my website?

Google are really pushing mobile these days (no surprise as Android’s at least the third most popular mobile platform, based on the numbers across all my clients’ Google Analytics accounts, behind iPad and iPhone). So much so that they’ve teamed up with a third party to mobile-optimise your website. But do you need to?

Local business? Stop reading now and go make your site mobile friendly

If you’re a local business, one that people actually look up on their phone when they’re on their way to or want to call to make a reservation or check the menu/price list (I’m looking at you Flash-obsessed restaurant websites) then you absolutely need to have a mobile optimised website, regardless of the percentage of your visitors who are on mobile because they are the hottest prospects you’ve got – they’re headed your way and they just want help finding you.

For everyone else: it depends

Overestimating Mobile

The new interface of Google Analytics has a prominent new option – MOBILE – in the Audience section. There’s just one problem. The iPad, and myriad other copycat tablets, are all included in mobile. They might run ‘mobile’ operating systems but they’re not really that mobile. Most people use them at home, on the couch. Most websites, as long as they don’t make exclusive use of Flash or really bad javascript, will work fine on them and forcing a ‘mobile experience’ that’s optimised for a phone screen is often worse than serving up the full website. Why does this matter? Because when Google include tablets in the numbers for mobile, you’re getting incorrect info. The ‘tablets’ proportion of those mobile visits, across tens of thousands of visits across several of my clients, averages around 60%. That’s how much ‘mobile’ is being overstated by. Beware of numbers touting the huge increases in people ‘shopping on mobile’ – the majority are shopping on tablets, not phones, and as long as the desktop site works fine (no Flash, no rollover-dependent interface elements) there’s no pressing need to change.

So I can just sit tight?

Well no. You need to keep a close eye on the ‘real mobile’ segment and make sure that you’re not serving up an inaccessible website to any devices; phone, tablet or regular computer. Mobile, as a percentage of your audience, is creeping up, whoever you are. If you’ve got an ecommerce site, bear in mind that even if people don’t place orders via a web browser on their phone, they’re checking your prices. You owe it to all your users to serve up appropriate, optimised pages.

Image credit: Original image by Riggzy used under a Creative Commons Remix Licence