Net Applications did it again. Last month they sent their stats around to all the tech blogs claiming the Safari browser grew the fastest in the previous month. In fact that claim was very misleading, as they took the iOS browser numbers and added them to the desktop Safari numbers, and claiming that the Safari browser grew twice as fast as Chrome. The best part is they only did it for Apple’s browsers. They didn’t add the Android browser numbers to Chrome, didn’t add the Firefox Mobile numbers to Firefox, and didn’t add the Opera Mini/Mobile numbers to Opera either.

Today, they come out with another misleading claim, saying that the iOS browser has over 50% market share on mobile devices, implying that the iOS browser dominates the mobile market in the same way IE dominates the PC market.

But the data shows “browser usage”, not “number of users”, or what we *usually* call market share. What this means is that even if the iOS browser has only 20% users out there, the “market share” gets skewed towards 50% because people use the iPad browser for a longer time than they do on either Android phones or iPhones. It’s more like the time they spend on a laptop compared to the time they spend on a phone.

Obviously, if people use the browser on the phone only 20 minutes on average per day, and they use the iPad browser 2 hours on average per day, the iOS “browser usage” would be a lot higher than the Android one, but that’s not very relevant. What you want to know in general, especially as a developer, is how many people are using a browser. Browser usage is far less important to developers than number of users (reach), and it has nothing to do with IE’s market share which is actually about number of users, not usage.

There are 150 million Android phones out there, and 200 million iOS devices. So the real iOS browser market share should be somewhere around 20% if the Android browser has 15%.  If it as 50% as they imply it is, then there should be about 500 million iOS devices out there, and there aren’t that many.

Either way, let’s not forget that Android devices are selling about twice as fast as iPhones, and they sell faster even compared to the whole slew of iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad), so it should catch up and surpass the iOS browser market share soon enough.

I hope Net Applications will start counting users of each browser next time, which if far more relevant, and I also hope they stop combining the iOS browser share with the desktop Safari one and declare it one and the same, or at the very least they should combine the mobile browser shares for all the other companies as well to make it fair.