Browsing the Mobile Web: Anyone Out There?

Earlier this week, I published a post on the Taptu blog looking at the challenges of creating and selling mobile applications outside of the iPhone bubble, in particular at how developer Jan Ole Suhr released a Twitter client for S60, causing a stir around the pricing.

You know me, I love nothing more than a good ol’ rumble around the web, so when I came across some more tasty stats that didn’t agree with each other, I had to bite. Bango and AdMob both released recent figures for their top 20 handsets and there’s a Grand Canyon of difference in the top 3.

mobile_stats

Granted there is a fairly straightforward explanation for this variation; AdMob, as an ad network, has been one of the chosen ad providers for many iPhone app developers, who choose to monetise their apps through advertising.

No Monopoly, Apple

What is enlightening however, is that the iPhone and iPod Touch don’t feature at all in Bango’s top 20. As a more representative sample of the mobile web than AdMob’s figures, it’s fascinating to see that a phone as basic as the Nokia 3110 Classic tops the chart. This is 2009. Weren’t we supposed to have hover cars, food in pill form and travel to the moon by now!? Yet a phone with less features than my microwave tops the chart with over 12% of the traffic to cross Bango’s service.

[Tangent alert] Before anyone crucifies me, I believe older phones have some wonderful benefits. My favourite phone of all times is probably still the Nokia 6100, which was small enough for me to mistake it for some futuristic pill form food and had about a century of battery life. (Ok, only slightly exaggerating) I’m a big fan of the iPhone, not so much of second-rate touch devices like Nokia’s 5800, but I try to be fair and give each and every new phone a chance first. [Tangent over]

Part of the appeal of the mobile web as opposed to apps is that, generally speaking, it’s much more accessible from a wide range of devices, without device, geographic or network limitations. But speaking to a number of smaller mobile website owners, it seems everyone’s missing a trick.

Stats Geeks Wanted

On desktop, most of us have caught on to Google Analytics and use it regularly to keep an eye on the ups and downs of our website. On mobile? Tumbleweed in most cases! Sure, Google Analytics and others aren’t suitable for mobile, but there are options. In fact, Bango’s mobile analytics service is not only simple to use, but has an admin area that rivals desktop packages.

Weirdly, these analytics could just as well be used on a desktop site. What, do you really think you don’t have a single mobile visitor to your desktop site? iPhone and other higher end phones will cope with Javascript (necessary to make a mark on Google Analytics, for example), but the majority of the devices listed on both AdMob and Bango’s top 20 won’t even register on your stats.

Personally, as a marketing gal and stats geek, I can’t imagine why a marketing manager wouldn’t want to improve reported numbers just by adding a new set of analytics. It ain’t cheating, it’s just usefully flagging up users you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

Fly Me To the Moon

So while there are heinously bad phones out there *cough* motorolaimlookingatyou *cough* and site developers who forget that not everyone’s interested in a big Flash animation welcoming you to the site, we just can’t deny that it’s slowly becoming more or less enjoyable to browse the web on a phone, so it’s worth supporting that through good mobile design and smart tracking of what users coming from phones rather than 24″ screens get up to.

As far as I’m concerned, you’ll only find me browsing on an iPhone, since I’m not yet quiiite satisfied with touchscreen alternatives out there. Of course, I’m a willing guinea pig… at least while I wait for my brain implant, jetpack and weekend ticket to the moon.

[Disclaimer: Taptu and Bango are both clients with whom I work on community development. As for Apple and AdMob, I’m merely watching them evolve with great interest.]

One response to “Browsing the Mobile Web: Anyone Out There?

  1. This is something I’ve been banging on about for ages. There are >60 Million mobile users in the UK. iPhone has sold ~10 Million (~7 million active). The Nokia 5800 just blew through ~14 million devices. The basic Nokia 6300 is one of the biggest selling “new” devices.

    Yet all the hype and attention goes to the iPhone.

    The iPhone has a very good browsing experience (not the best IMO) but – crucially – it comes with a flat rate data tariff. That and the integrated nature of data services drives its usage.

    But in terms of sheer usage – there are more RAZRs out there using the Mobile Internet than iPhones. In these strained economic times, I don’t see many of them splashing the cash on upgrading to a superior device.

    [Not speaking on behalf of my current employer, Vodafone].

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I'm Véro - a crafty, knitty, spinny gal who enjoys making (and drinking) a cocktail or three. If you've stumbled here, you might enjoy browsing some of my older posts with the tags over to the right or finding out more about me.

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