Flurry now detects about 1 billion smartphones and tablets in use around the world every month. In the last 30 days, we saw activity on more than 2,000 unique device models. As the device base grows, we’re seeing an increasing variety of screen sizes, from sub-smartphones to full-size tablets and beyond. This poses both challenges and opportunities for developers who must consider how audiences, usage behavior and app category affinities vary by form factor.
This report reveals which form factors and screen sizes consumers use most, and for what categories. For this study, we focused on the top 200 device models, as measured by active users in Flurry’s system, which represent more than 80% of all usage. Doing so, five groups emerged based on screen size:
1. Small phones (e.g., most Blackberries), 3.5” or under screens
2. Medium phones (e.g., iPhone), between 3.5” - 4.9” screens
3. Phablets (e.g., Galaxy Note), 5.0” - 6.9” screens
4. Small Tablets (e.g., Kindle Fire), 7.0” - 8.4” screens
5. Full-size tablets (e.g., the iPad), 8.5” or greater screens
Mid-Sized Smartphones Dominate. Phablets are a Fad.
The top bar in the chart below shows how the top 200 device models break down by form factor in the market. Starting from the left, 16% of devices have screen sizes that are 3.5 inches or fewer in diagonal length. 69% of devices are between 3.5 inches and 4.9 inches, which includes iPhone. The light gray are made up of “phablets” such as the Galaxy Note. The orange are small tablets such as the Kindle Fire and iPad Mini. Finally, the far right shows that 7% of the device models in use are full sized tablets such as the iPad. The two bars below show distributions by active devices (taking into account that some device models have more users than others) and the number of app sessions (taking into account that some device models get used for more app sessions per user than others), respectively.
Notice that while 16% of the device models in the market are small phones, they account for only 7% of active devices once users per device are taken into account and 4% of overall app sessions. The opposite is true for tablets, which account for 7% of the top 200 device models yet 15% of all active users and 13% of all app sessions. On the small end, we believe this is because smaller device models, including most BlackBerry devices, are older and therefore have fewer active users per model. They are also not as well-suited to apps because of their small screen sizes. Full-size tablets, however, are ideal for using applications and therefore see a disproportionately higher percent of sessions. They also tend to have more users per device model since this class of devices has been dominated by iPad.
The ‘Is it a phone or is it a tablet’ devices otherwise known as phablets have attracted interest, but currently command a relatively small share (2%) of the device installed base, and their share of active users and sessions is also relatively small.
Form Factor Varies by OS
Not surprisingly, the form factor share of device models and active device users varies by operating system. The chart below shows share of active users by form factor for the different OSs. Inspecting the chart, medium phones are the dominant form factor on all operating systems, except Blackberry, which still has more active users on small phones. Android owns the phablet market and also has the greatest proportion of devices using small tablets. iOS has the greatest share of active devices using large tablets. The only Windows device models that are in the top 200 device models in terms of active users are medium-sized phones.
Tablets Are Gaming Machines
The chart below shows how total time spent in select popular categories is distributed across form factors.
Starting at the top, notice that nearly a third of time spent playing games take places on larger devices, namely full-sized tablet, small tablets and phablets. And while they command consumer time spent, they represented only 15% of device models in use in February and 21% of individual connected devices. These differences are statistically significant.
Studying books and videos, it’s somewhat surprising that tablets, which possess larger screens, do not see a larger proportion of time spent. An explanation for the high concentration in time spent in smartphones could be that consumers watch videos from their smartphones on-the-go (e.g., commuting to work on public transit), whereas they opt for a bigger screen to watch video (e.g., computer or TV) when at work or home. We expect that tablets may represent a greater share of time spent in book and video apps in the future as tablet ownership expands and tablet owners branch out into more types of apps.
Consumers Signal Preference for Smartphones & Tablets
As OEMs experiment with an ever-expanding array of form factors, developers need to remain focused on devices most accepted and used by consumers. From our study, consumers most prefer and use apps on medium-sized smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy smartphones and full-sized tablets like the iPad. In particular, smaller smartphones under-index in terms of app usage compared to the proportion of the installed base they represent, and would suggest they are not worth developers’ support. Phablets appear to make up an insignificant part of the device installed base, and do not show disproportionately high enough app usage to justify support. Tablets, on the other hand show the most over-indexing of usage, especially in games. The success some game developers are having with a tablet-first strategy, like dominant game maker Supercell, may also inspire developers of other types of apps to consider focusing on tablets.
This week, wedged between Apple’s WWDC and Google I/O is Microsoft’s Windows Phone Summit in San Francisco on Wednesday, June 20. Additionally, Microsoft is holding a last-minute press conference that “you don’t want to miss” tonight in Los Angeles. Barnes & Noble claims they are not part of the announcement, and others speculate that Xbox Live streaming will be part of the offering. Given the popularity of gaming on smartphones and tablets, and the strength of the Xbox platform, this would be a strong move for Microsoft. Because the development community is strongly made up of gaming studios, a move such as this could help galvanize the 3rd-party development community. Over the last couple of years, there has been an all-out war among Apple, Google, Microsoft, RIM and others to win the hearts and minds of developers. It appears that Microsoft is now making its move.
This report follows up on another released by Flurry earlier this month, showing that Apple continues to hold a strong lead over Google’s Android for developer support. Looking beyond the top two platforms supported by developers, Flurry evaluates the possibility for a 3rd legitimate platform provider to emerge at this stage of the game. At Flurry, we track developer support across the platforms that compete for their commitment. When companies create new projects in Flurry Analytics, they download platform-specific SDKs for their apps. Since resources are limited, choices developers make to support a specific platform signal confidence, as they invest their R&D budget where they expect the greatest return. Flurry Analytics has been adopted by more than 70,000 companies across more than 190,000 applications. Let’s start with a comparison of the Research in Motion (RIM) versus Microsoft.
Microsoft Blows by Beleaguered RIM
The chart above shows the percent of new project starts represented by Microsoft and RIM among all platforms Flurry supports (e.g., iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, etc.). A new project start in the Flurry system is when a developer sets up an application for analytics tracking prior to the launch of that app. Over the past 12 months, Project starts for Windows Phone have grown by more than 600%, now accounting for 6% of all new project starts in the Flurry system during June 2012. As a percent of new project starts, RIM has remained flat. Overall, on an absolute basis, total new project starts within Flurry have grown by approximately 50%.
Microsoft Sets Its Sights on Android
We next combine all new projects across the top 4 platforms within the Flurry system, comparing Q2 2011 versus Q2 2012.
The chart above compares the percent of new projects built by developers per platform within Flurry. For this snapshot, we compare Q2 2011 versus Q2 2012. Year-over-year, developer support has shifted, with Microsoft’s dent becoming more visible, now representing 4% during Q2 2012. iOS and Android share continue to oscillate mildly now clocking in 67% for iOS and 28% for Android. BlackBerry remains flat. What is important to note is that all four platforms are growing, just at different rates. Specifically, growth rates per platform for year-over-year growth are: iOS 66%, Android 82%, Windows Phone 521%, BlackBerry 13%. Viewing the relative growth rates show just how much Microsoft is gaining against the market.
Considering the first chart in this report, Microsoft growth has been accelerating within Q2. If we look at just Android and Microsoft in the month of June, for every Windows Phone new project started, 4 have been started for Android. Considering the much smaller Windows Phone installed based compared to Android, Microsoft is currently over-indexing. From Google’s point-of-view, this must elevate Microsoft from an “also-ran” to a potential competitive threat with the resources and know-how to kick-start momentum and mount a campaign to reel in the second place player.
Generally, Windows Phone could be gaining against the entire market as a result of developer frustration for Android fragmentation, concern for increasing competition on iOS and a lack of faith in BlackBerry. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that Microsoft still knows how to attract third party developer support. With its Nokia-partnership and high anticipation around today’s Microsoft Tablet announcement, Flurry expects Microsoft to make continued headway over the course of 2012.
In the history of high tech corporate incumbents facing market disruption, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop’s blunt, provocative “burning platform” memo, where he describes a blazing platform, upon which his company has poured gasoline and now must abandon for its very survival, has become an instant classic. While history will ultimately reveal whether Mr. Elop’s bold call to action was delivered in time to save Nokia, Flurry can look to trends from the app development community as an early indicator for whether it will support the new Nokia-Microsoft (“Nokiasoft”) partnership.
Flurry periodically measures the relative support that developers dedicate to different platforms by tracking new application starts within its system, especially when there is a major market event. For example, prior to the shipment of Apple’s iPad, Flurry reported both increased activity and rates of project starts. A Flurry new project start is recorded when a developer adds the Flurry SDK to its pre-release application. 38,000 companies have created projects using Flurry.
This week, with the early speculation and subsequent announcement that Nokia and Microsoft would partner, Flurry measured a 66% increase in Windows Phone 7 project starts over last week. However, since we only began Flurry Analytics support for Microsoft Windows Phone 7 five weeks ago, we went back in our records to ensure what we were seeing was not an aberration.
For an apples-to-apples comparison, we studied Flurry new project starts for the first five weeks of support for each of the following platforms: Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7. We then normalized the measurement to show a relative vs. absolute comparison (percentages vs. actual numbers). The results are presented below.
Reviewing the chart, it is interesting to note the similarity in relative growth of Android and Windows Phone 7 project starts. When Flurry launched its support for Android in October 2008, there was doubt in the industry around the viability of Android as a development platform. Back then, the sentiment was that Android would capture market share as a mobile operating system, but not necessarily as an application development platform or an ecosystem where developers could thrive. 180,000 apps later, Android answered its critics.
Likewise, prior to today’s announcement, many questioned the viability of Windows Phone 7 as an operating system that developers would support. Moreover, there was doubt that Microsoft as a company could muster enough momentum to gain relevance at this stage the mobile platform race. From Flurry’s point of view, this week’s spike in Windows Phone 7 developer activity shows that developers not only believe Nokia has given Microsoft Windows Phone7 a shot in the arm, but also that Nokia and Microsoft together can build a viable ecosystem.
While Android ultimately became a vibrant platform, it’s also important to note the relative drop off in BlackBerry’s project starts over the same initial period. It appears that developers voted down BlackBerry as a viable third contender to Apple and Google in the first five weeks of Flurry’s support. Months later, the market proved these developers right.
Yet, despite the rising development cost to build for multiple platforms, developers continue to demonstrate their willingness to support a multi-platform world, where they believe real business opportunity exists. As one of our developer-customers once told us “I would develop in assembly language, if I thought I could make money.” With spiking support for Nokia and Microsoft, developers are showing us they believe.
The data in this report is computed from a sample size of 200 applications, 25 million consumers and four platforms: Apple (iPhone and iPod Touch), Blackberry, JavaME and Google Android.
Google Android: Maintaining Market Share
When Flurry released its March 2009 Pulse, we declared iPhone the undisputed winner, leading by a wide margin over Google Android in all key categories: number of developers, applications and consumers. Since then, the number of developers, applications and consumers in Flurry's network has grown by more than three times. Revisiting market share, we find that Android has maintained its percentage share over this rapid period of growth. While the iPhone still dominates the application market, Google Android has managed to prevent Apple from widening the gap. With 1) reports that roughly 20 more Android handsets will ship during 2009, 2) continued application saturation in the App Store making it harder for developers to compete for consumer downloads and 3) the relative ease required to develop for Android versus iPhone, Google appears well positioned to chip away at iPhone's dominant position.
For Blackberry and JavaME, however, our sample shows that Apple continues to cannibalize those platforms.
App User Retention: Android Users More Loyal than iPhone Users
Comparing a group of applications available on both iPhone and Android, we found that Android consumers use their applications longer. To measure this, we tracked the percent of users who still use an application after downloading it over different periods of time.
Across all time periods, Android users continue to use their applications longer. For the longest period of time measured, 90 days, the proportion of Android to iPhone usage was approximately 50% greater. Please see the specific figures in the graph below.
One reason we believe retention rates vary is that Android offers far fewer applications compared to iPhone. With applications coming out on iPhone at a faster rate, iPhone users move onto other apps more quickly. For Android users, they make more use of what's available, with less temptation to move to the next application. Other factors that could also play a role:
- The Android base tends to be "older," have less time and interest to try new applications. Once they find an application they like, they stick with it.
- The Android base is more tolerant, tend to be more tech savvy and find ways to appreciate what they have, even if their applications aren't perfect.
Regardless of the underlying drivers it's clear that at the current volume of available Android apps, usage is stickier.
App Usage Frequency: Android Usage Heavier than iPhone Usage
Further studying our set of applications with both iPhone and Android versions, Android consumers used their applications significantly more frequently than their iPhone counterparts. 37% of iPhone consumers who downloaded applications used those applications fewer than 5 times per month ("superlight users") with Android having only 11% in the superlight usage category. Toward the other end of the spectrum, 35% percent of Android users can be defined as "heavy users," using applications more than 50 times per month, compared to only 15% on the iPhone.
We believe differences in frequency of use are driven by the same underlying factors affecting length of use; namely, fewer available applications for Android and different behaviors exhibited by an older, more tech savvy user base. Overall this creates opportunities for Android application developers who are seeing saturation in the iPhone App store. Finally, a lot will hinge on the Android Market becoming a better shopping experience as well as the need for better design of upcoming Android OEM handsets than the existing HTC G1.