Android web share falls, Apple rises, and what that really means

by: Joe HindyFebruary 2, 2013

web share The Android vs iOS battle will continue until one of them is gone. Given that is slowly losing its grasp on the mobile market, we’d be willing to bet that it won’t be Android that goes down first. However, new studies have come out showing that Apple controls the web share by nearly 40%.

Let’s observe the facts. Since November 2012, Android web share has fallen 13% while Apple’s web share as gone up 1%. According to CNNMoney’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt, this trend actually began in October when the iPhone 5 and the iPad Mini were released. This sparked skepticism that the shipping numbers that have been going around may be wrong.

For those who don’t know, the shipping numbers state that Android outsold iOS this year in both tablets and smartphones. More importantly, that Android now controls tablet market share as well as smartphones. This explains the skepticism that if Android is the king of every market share, then the web share should reflect that too. Since it doesn’t, well, you see where this is going.

So what does the increased web share actually mean?

The conclusion by some is that Android users simply don’t use their web browsers as much as Apple users do. That, or someone’s numbers are screwy. The problem is discerning which one is true. Since sales numbers seem to pop up out of nowhere, many believe that it’s the sales numbers that are skewed and that iOS is much more popular than Android. These people use this web share data as proof of that.

To put it bluntly, the web share information doesn’t mean squat when it comes to hardware sales. It simply shows that Apple fans use their browser way more than Android fans. It’s not a giant leap in logic to make. Consider that for months, the only way to access Google Maps on iOS devices was through the web interface. There are many similar bottlenecks to iOS that make people use their web browser. There is also the chance that Apple users just like their web browsers more often.

It’s impossible to correlate hardware sales to web share when dealing with titans like Apple and Android. Trying to use consumer habits to determine hardware sales is like saying people buy more sports cars because studies show sports car owners drive faster. It’s comparing apples to oranges and can lead to conclusions that aren’t always accurate.

Next time you see a web share graph, take it for what it’s worth. This one is showing more people on iOS use their web browsers and that’s it. It’s a measure of preference, not of dominance. No one should walk around stating that an operating system is more prevalent due to something like web share.  We’d love to hear from our readers on the subject. Do you think web share has any bearing on operating system sales and popularity?

  • Bob Someguy

    Might be that I don’t use a browser in Android? Is this information browser based? I use apps to find info. Wikipedia app, Google Reader, Google Search, Google Now, Pandora, etc. Rarely open Chrome. So yeah of you are looking at that traffic then it will go down. The signature for Wikipedia app in network traffic is the same for Android and IPhone so you can’t tell him which is which. Are you looking at Android Browser or Android Chrome? How does Samsung sell more phone in 2012 but Apple outsells Android in 2012

    • Mav

      Samsung has many times being exposed for fake numbers…the 9million g3 pre order sales, were actually shipments to carriers for launch….plus take a look at reported in press # reported , and the actual numbers that came out at the patent trial….plus samsung has a high return/warranty/unsold charge all the time. I mean this is the company that few days ago reported a gas leak late and killed a employee and hospitalized four others (fined 900 bucks)

      Ahhh some of u too young remember when they ripped off blackberry with the blackjack lol

  • Or maybe because some android browsers use the ios user agent

  • Tony Raffini

    Is that how this works? just the browser works using user agent? How can that possible mean anything?

    • JosephHindy

      That’s the point, it doesn’t mean anything. Worthless statistic lol.

  • cile1977

    On some web pages you get html5 video only if you change user agent to ipad. If user agent is android, you get flash video which does not work or works bad.

  • Spidey

    I think that android users don’t use their web that much cause chrome seems to be a little glitch-ishh on android platforms. I don’t know? maybe its just me but i hate my chrome experience.. but will never switch to anything else :D I have faith they will hooks it. Also maybe the fact that Google Now is being used removes the need to search your web browser, and all the apps on Android are being utilized more proficiently than iOs users not having to visit the websites but use a websites application.

  • bluelightzero

    anyone considered that there are different web browsers for android. and this script is missing out millions of custom browsers? also ios users are more likely to pay more for internet access so they use it more.

  • u r trying to compare apples with oranges based on browser shares..!!!!!

  • Andreas Hofer

    android definitely rules :) the distortion may be explained by a number of factors: the Google maps example might be part of the explaination… another one is that iOS users think they can/should be able to use their fabulous devices for far more things than others… I love my nexus 7, but I equally often turn to my chromebook or PC when ipad fans still would go on (masochistically?) using their tablets.

    emails are a good example ( I would never dream of sending a lenghty email or posting an eleborate comment on the web on a tablet… while I get that “sent from my iPad” all the time)

    • kascollet

      Dude, you never obviously used an iPad for those two key features (web browsing and mailing) in witch it performs admirably well, and in many cases surpasses full desktop experience. Suggesting masochism is just ridiculous.

      • Fandroid

        “In witch it performs?” You clearly need to get an android phone to start using Swiftkey. Your auto-correct on your iCrap is bad.

        • kascollet

          Oops. Sorry for my bad English.

      • thegr33k

        Better than full desktop!? Right… 27″ home monitored Desktop or 2x 24″ at work is MUCH easier to use for ANY task than a tablet. There is no comparison. Only advantage any tablet has over a desktop is accessibility I.E. its easy to pick up and turn on fast without getting up.

        • kascollet

          That’s debatable. I’m quite sure I can navigate as fast an efficiently with my tablet as you can with your wall of screens, and still, I can do it in bed :-)
          I just wish my Iconia and my iPad had more RAM for enhanced multi-tab browsing experience.

  • Filip Justin

    Why would I use Chrome on my Note 2 when I have the stock browser that enables me to watch Flash?

  • skyshark88

    Wow, rarely use my browser on my android tablet ,my I imito on my TV is android use it more than cable, my iPhone well hate it but use safari a lot when o do use it … Its apples lockdown of programs that st ears me to safari and dude getting rid of it soon. My first tablet was apple went nexus 7 eventually and love the freedom of choice in android , samsung soon for phone …

  • I use apps all the time

  • Tony Raffini

    well dont things like youtube videos load in the browser on ios instead of on the youtube app? Along with anything else web based? In android every site that you have an app for usually has an option to take you to the app by default instead.

  • kascollet

    Tablets. This all comes down to tablets. These are mostly wi-fi broad band Internet devices and Android tablets are lame. Browser experience on the iPad is second to none, period.
    Numbers are not the same when it comes to mobile web usage (where Android is used as much as iOS).

  • To the author, read this, which you should done as part of your research!!, you cannot take iOS web usage stats at face value

    • JosephHindy

      Two paragraphs above “Camouflage mode”

      “Given that more than 75% of all iOS visitors are running iOS 5.0 or higher the overall impact fake user agent strings have on browser market share will not be as high as some of the individual version of iOS.”

      So yes, it has a pretty decent impact, but not enough to calculate the entire 40% difference displayed on this graph. Good find, by the way :)

      • Another huge impact on Android browsers is the fact you can request desktop sites only, which you can’t do on iOS Safari. This changes the UA string a site reports, and doesn’t mention Android at all.

        Check out on Chrome Android / AOSP browser or any 3rd party Android browser, that allows UA string modification, then set ‘Request Desktop Site’ off and then on, with it ON there is no mention of Android. Add in iOS Safari’s auto-refreshing of pages, and you can there is Substantial margin for error in reporting of browser usage.

        Now if web usage reporting could verify the Javascipt engine used, V8 for Android & Nitro for iOS that would lead to far more accurate results

  • On Android we change the user agent all the time. In fact I changed mine to iPad

  • nexus7mike1

    We all see everyday that iOS users actually use their devices more often, due to pure and simple ease of use. IOS is designed to be used used and used again. Android with widgets home screens etc takes more time to use, and often requires 2 hands on the bigger phones. Out of the home I am continually on my iPhone, apps and browser. Easy using one hand. At home I game on my ipad . I consume Media, and stream movies, mainly to my Nexus.
    But I think this proves again that iOS buyers use their devices a lot. Some Android sales figures are shipments data and there is a long way to go before Android really leads in any segment.
    A simple test watch any concert film or large scale event to see an ocean of iPhone being used, and a few sporadic others…Apple is way ahead but hopefully a new raft of good Nexus like products will even the field a little.
    Both will be around for a while, for dying platforms let’s discuss win mobile and the comatose Blackberry.
    Avoid making iOS vs Android into a war. Both r good and both, as I have stated, can co exist in my mobile life with each having particular strengths.
    Except of course the stupid Android phablets that will be the death of the platform.

    • EWilliams1914

      I disagree with your comment on widgets. Widgets may actually make up for some of the discrepancy. Widgets cut down on time because you aren’t waiting for a notification or digging into an app. News, weather, messages, social updates etc are presented directly without using a browser. The real issue is the platforms are just different which makes it difficult to use a metric like browser activity to measure a products popularity. Unfortunately both Android and iOS zealots insist on grasping on to any piece of information they feel will undermine their favorite company’s competitor and usually present the information without much thought. Furthermore, if you are using both platforms you are more than likely only following one platform’s design paradigm, limiting your understanding of the other, hence your comment about widgets. And for the record I typed/swyped this using one hand on a Nexus 4.

      • nexus7mike1

        Good point not on widgets, nice to someone actually owns Nexus 4… I thought it was Vapourware…

        • thegr33k

          Since its not software its hard for it to be Vapourware ;) Also using Nexus 4

  • Mav

    Or maybe andriod sucks and most of the sales are cheap free phones that are pre paid and user doesnt get a data plan with the prepaid phones. Also apple reports sales, andriod reports shipped, not sales…andriod is just a gateway smartphone to apple…why retention is under 50 and apples in the 90’s…either way google only makes money if your on the web…why they need apple.

    • kascollet

      That’s quite brutal :-O

  • Simon Belmont

    Weird. I actually use the web browser (stock browser and Chrome) on my N7 and the stock browser and Chrome on my phone often. :D

    In fact, I find myself just grabbing my tablet more and more these days rather than fully committing myself to getting on my laptop to do fairly heavy web browsing or even just to quickly look something up. It’s just a matter of ease and I can do it lying in bed. :)

  • kascollet

    It seems like JavaME is the platform stealing share from Android. What does it mean (witch devices does JavaME account for ?).

    • Fandroid

      You must be a witch!

      • kascollet

        Maybe you could just stop bashing foreigners and become more forgiving ?

  • Noah

    When I see the graphics, it’s Android that rises, Apple stalls and even falls back a little. Anyway, web browsing is a but a part of what people do with their tablets so even if what the title suggest were correct, that would hardly be relevant.

  • Guy De Vos

    Three words. User Agent String.

  • paxmos

    It means a chance for you and writers like you to write a really useless article!!!

  • Howard

    I only use the opera browser on Android. I don’t like the stock browser user interface.

  • wlferreira

    Think about the last quarter when iOS users doesn’t have a google map app and their Map App Sucks by the moment, users were force to access google map by the web and there you have the extra use! ;)

  • freedomspopular

    A came across something recently. I did this browser benchmark on using Dolphin on my Note 2. At the end, it tells me I’m using Safari 4.0. So obviously that site is misreading what browser I’m using. What other sites are misreading this as well?

    • thegr33k

      Indeed, Chrome says the same for me on the site and I have noticed it before, then you add on many other factors such as user string 3rd party browsers that might not be counted as Android, iOS auto refresh etc etc and you have a lot of numbers that make little to no sense.

      This whole report exists for the sake of it existing, because iOS vs Android is big news, its going to get seen!

  • I always use desktop engine on my mobile browser. Does iOS have that option?