Nice iPhone application, but why ignore the vast majority of mobile customers?

Brands that focus on the iPhone are ignoring the vast majority of customers that use other phones. That’s the message from mobile analytics firm Bango and it’s clearly underscored by the latest statistics.

Bango counts unique handsets that access all mobile sites that use Bango’s popular analytics tools to identify and track mobile visitors and process payments. For February 2009, the iPhone does not even make the Top 20. mobiThinking spotted this previously, but this is the first time that Bango has gone public with its message.

Given the hype about the iPhone and the surprising number of companies that have released Apple-only sites and applications recently, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Bango has gone a bit mad, but it is talking sense. Nor is Bango alone in pointing out this anomaly. The vast majority of your customers don’t use iPhones and won’t. iPhones are great, but they only account for a small percentage of smartphones and smartphones only account for a small percentage of handsets.

But weren’t Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch the top handsets in February 2009, according to AdMob Mobile Metrics Report? We hear you ask…

They were, but if you read AdMob’s report correctly, it doesn’t and never claimed to count unique users. AdMob counts the number of mobile adverts its advertising network serves to different types of phones, not unique handsets; so if iPhone users surf more (aren’t the majority of iPhone users on unlimited data plans?), then iPhones go to the top.

See Bango’s stats side-by-side with AdMob’s below.

But aren’t Bango and AdMob just measuring visitors to their customers’ sites?

That’s true, the view of both is restricted to their customers’ sites, which are concentrated in the US and European markets (both core markets for the iPhone), but they are recognized leaders in their fields, with large customer bases, so have a better perspective than most. More on this here.

So who backs up Bango’s view?

First up, there are the global sales figures for new smartphones for last year, released by Gartner:

  • Smartphones account for 11-12 percent of all mobile handsets sold globally.
  • iPhones account for 8.2 percent of the smartphones sold globally.
  • Towards the end of the year, smartphone growth had slowed to 3.7 percent.
  • So the iPhone was less than 1 percent of new phones last year – note this ignores all those people who didn’t change their phone last year. Would any marketers cast their net so needlessly thin in any other channel? See the hard figures below.

    Geoffrey Handley, one of the co-founders of The Hyperfactory – one of the most respected outfits in mobile marketing globally – told mobiThinking that he has been amazed to see brands invest in iPhone applications as their sole mobile play. Many of these brands haven’t even got a mobile Internet site. What makes them so interested in this small subset of the mobile market, when they have so far totally ignored mobile Internet users as a whole?

    Handley, like the rest of us, is a fan of the iPhone and thinks it is an important part of a brand’s overall mobile marketing strategy, but suggests that any brand that are taking their first steps in mobile start with the basics.

    There’s an interesting blog here, from Ray Anderson, chief executive officer, Bango, on expanding on why companies need a mobile site for all mobile phones, not just iPhone users.

    In a recent email newsletter from Crisp Wireless, Boris Fridman, chief executive officer, stated: “For everyone thinking about investing in an iPhone app, I say, kudos – but don’t do it at the expense of a mobile website.”

    mobiThinking concurs. The starting point in mobile for every brand is a mobile site that serves the need of all mobile users, whatever their handset. A state-of-the-art site should recognize every user whatever the handset and serve content that’s appropriate. There are plenty of tools that can help, though you could try Device Atlas, from our parent company dotMobi.

    Do you think launching iPhone applications before a mobile Internet site is like trying to run before learning to walk? Comment below or email editor (at)

    Here come the stats:

      Global smartphone sales to end
    users by Vendor, 2008 (Thousands of Units)
    Rank Company 2008 Sales 2008 (%)
    1 Nokia 60,920.5 43.7
    2 RIM 23,149.0 16.6
    3 Apple 11,417.5 8.2
    4 HTC 5,895.4 4.2
    5 Sharp 5,234.2 3.8
    6 Others 32,671.4 23.5
      Total 139,287.9 100.0
    Source: Gartner

    Rank Unique handsets accessing mobile
    sites using Bango tools
      Most popular types of handset
    models accessing AdMob adverts
    1 Nokia 3110c   Apple iPhone
    2 Samsung M800   Apple iPod Touch
    3 Nokia 6300   Motorola RAZR V3
    4 Nokia N70   Nokia N70
    5 Nokia 2630   Nokia 3110c
    6 Sony Ericsson K800i   Motorola Z6m
    7 Samsung E250   RIM BlackBerry 8300
    8 Sony Ericsson W580i   Nokia 6300
    9 Nokia N95 8GB   Samsung R450
    10 LG LX260   Motorola KRZR K1c
    11 LG CU720   Nokia N73
    12 Nokia 5310 XpressMusic   Nokia N95
    13 Nokia 6500s   RIM BlackBerry 8100
    14 Nokia N73   Nokia N80
    15 Nokia N95   Kyocera S1300
    16 RIM Blackberry 8330 (Curve)   Motorola W385
    17 Nokia 2600c   Nokia 6600
    18 RIM Blackberry 9530 (Storm)   Samsung M800
    19 Nokia 5200   Palm Centro
    20 Sony Ericsson W200i   Nokia 5300
    Source: Bango   AdMob

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