We've all seen charts like the one above from StatCounter, often accompanied by headlines saying things like "the iPhone is responsible for 64% of all mobile traffic", "4.5% of all web traffic comes from mobile browsers", or "smartphones are responsible for over half of all mobile page views".
- Feature phone browsers can't display many desktop pages and thus aren't counted by sites without mobile formatted versions.
- Many sites redirect all mobile browser traffic to a mobile formatted site. There is a good chance that the mobile site doesn't include the tracking image or code. The mobile site's design and hosting may be outsourced to a third party like Mobify, mDog,or Usablenet which has it's own separate statistics module. Or perhaps the publisher uses a different, mobile specific analytics service like for the mobile pages.
For evidence of under reporting take a look at the Wikipedia entry , "Usage share of web browsers", which has a table showing the relative usage share of mobile browsers based on data from three sources. For Decenber, 2010 the numbers where:
Wikimedia is reporting a mobile browser share that's 86% higher than the Net Applications number. Which is right? I believe that the Wikimedia number is the closer to being accurate. It's based on server logs from Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites and should accurately reflect mobile visits to those sites. The big question is whether Wikimedia traffic is representative of Web traffic as a whole. I don't know but suspect that it's fairly typical.
It's important to recognize the limitations of web statistics when it comes to mobile. In particular I'd be wary of building a business model around numbers that suggest that mobile isn't important, or that only smart phones or only the iPhone are worth developing for.
Mobile browsing is growing rapidly as is Smartphone market share. But there are still a lot of feature phones around and people are using them to browse the web The last AdMob Mobile Metrics Report from May 2010 shows (chart above) that feature phones were responsible for 42% of all of Admob's mobile ad requests in May. Admob data is shewed toward the US and Western Europe, the non-smartphone share is likely even higher in the developing world.
- A rich browser group for modern browsers like Safari, WebOS, bada, Android and Opera Mobile. This group gets the full featured mobile version of the page.
- The last group is the basic browsers like Openwave and Obigio. These browsers need to have large pages broken up into multiple smaller pages with only a few small images on each page.
Sure it's easier to just create an iPhone/Android version of your site and say you have mobile covered. But do you really want to leave over half your potential mobile customers behind?