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

Price Comparison Mobile Apps – an opportunity for B&M Stores?

barcode scanner
There are a number of apps (Twenga, RedLaser, Save Benjis and others) for performing on-the-go price comparisons.

You either search by product name or barcode, but the pitch for them all is the same: you’re out shopping, in a bricks & mortar retail store when you see a product you want. You take out your iPhone, scan the barcode or type in a product name and check the price, either directly with online stores like Amazon or using Google Products.

The developers of the apps sell them cheaply, the real revenue is in the affiliate commissions to be earned.

Whenever a technology comes that tips the balance unfairly (away from the bricks and mortar store which are being turned into a free showroom for online merchants) there are a number of ways for the ‘wronged party’ to handle the threat.

  1. Do nothing

    This is probably what most b&m stores will do – this is a technical threat that they’ve not planned for, places like Borders and Waterstones have been haemorrhaging market share to Amazon for years.

  2. Fight dirty – mobile signal jammers in stores.

    Great way to come across as the bad guy, a technical roadblock that is likely to inconvenience more people than necessary.

  3. Fight fair – Treat a price comparison as the buying signal it really is

    Given that these apps can (and some do already) know your location when you send that request, the fact that you’re looking for a lower price could be signalled to the retailer you’re standing in. A simple query to their systems could return ‘our best possible price’, not necessarily beating everyone – there’s some value to immediacy and not paying a shipping charge after all. Then just take your phone to the counter to get the item at the reduced price.

I understand there are technical issues with this – not every price comparison app or bricks & mortar retailer would want to take part, but the larger stores stand to lose the most from doing nothing.

Image credit timailius via Creative Commons on Fickr

Stuff I want: iPhone tripod attachment

I don’t have access to a fabrication plant, or have the skills to prototype this product so I’m just going to describe it in the hope that one of the toy-makers out there in iPod/iPhone accessory land will pick this up and run with it. When it comes out you can all thank me.

I want an iPhone tripod attachment, with remote control, a battery and an optional power source, and a mic socket would be nice too.

Michael Arrington said it best when he wrote that the iPhone 3GS should have been called the iPhone 3G V for video. OK, so the new model is faster – so what, it’s newer than the iPhone 3G – which contained the same processor as the original iPhone – it SHOULD be faster – it’s got 2 years of progress to build-in. The real killer feature will be that video camera.

He  is also right when they say that the Flip is going to come under some serious pressure from the new iPhone. OK, the Flip HD cams do 720p and the iPhone only does 640×480 for now. The iPhone has an always-on connection to the Internet and that makes up for a lot. Right now you can’t stream from your iPhone, but companies like Qik have it working on jailbroken phones, it’s only a matter of time before Apple/AT&T allow it, or Apple make it a ‘wifi only’ feature like VoIP is. Regardless of that, the ease of shooting and editing a video, then posting it to the video sharing platform of your choice is such that you can shoot and upload pretty damn quick, with no computer needed.

So what’s missing from this picture? Something to correct a few in-built failings of the iPhone, and rectify some of the most egregiously bad uses I’ve seen of the Flip. I’ve seen videos shot at conferences on a handheld Flip – it gives me motion sickness.

The device I would like to see would have:

  • cradle to hold the iPhone, using the dock connector – with a tight grip (if you’re using it with a GorillaPod, you’ll be needing that)
  • a battery, to provide additional power to supplement the iPhone’s built-in battery
  • RF remote – RF because you don’t always have line-of-sight, and a remote is necessary so you don’t jolt the iPhone when it is recording – with record, stop and zoom controls
  • a standard tripod screw-in connector on the bottom, so you can use it with any standard tripod or even a GorillaPod.
  • Microphone socket – standard 3.5mm jack – you can adapt pretty much anything to plug into it, and the ability to use a radio mic, or clip mic would be pretty cool and certainly give better sound than the in-built one

Imagine the ability to webcast, with good quality, from anywhere you have an internet connection.

It would also be cool if the device could work with the standard camera app for taking pics – then even owners of the normal iPhone 3G would be potential customers; often the pictures are just a bit blurry because of camera shake. A remote trigger and a tripod would solve that pain too.

Oh yeah – I want to pay no more than $50 for it. So Griffin, Mophie, Xtrememac, Belkin et al – have at!

UPDATE 7/7/09: This is promising from startup OWLE, and the ZGrip from established camera accessory company Zaguto. Now if you wouldn’t mind adding a power source…