Mobile browser shares 1/4

When I had studied the global browser stats I decided to delve a bit deeper into individual countries, because their stats differ a lot, and looking only at the global picture can distort your viewpoint.

I picked twelve countries around the world that can be (more-or-less) seen as kind-of a representative(ish) stand-in for a certain type of countries. Be warned, however, that every country is unique and that you should study yours straight away.

For all countries I took the StatCounter numbers and calculated the Q4 2010 browser market figures, comparing them to Q3. I will repeat this report in early April, when the Q1 figures are available.

This series consists of four posts, and I treat three countries and one topic in each of them. I’ll discuss the methodology later on.

The countries

The countries are Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, South Korea, the UK, and the US.

We’ll go through the countries by relative size of the mobile web: thus we’ll start with Nigeria, where 27% of all websites hits come from a mobile browser, and end with Poland, where that figure is only 1%.

Country Mobile share Change Top browser Remarks
Nigeria 27% +14 Opera Mobile share doubled
India 16% +2 Opera
Indonesia 13% +1 Opera
US 6% +2 Safari
UK 5% +1 BlackBerry Safari overtaken by BB
South Korea 4% +3 Android Mobile share quadrupled
Brazil 2% +1 Nokia
Mexico 2% 0 Safari
China 2% 0 UCWeb
Egypt 2% 0 Opera
Netherlands 2% 0 Safari
Poland 1% 0 Opera

The Opera/Nokia pattern

The basic pattern we’ll see in this article is Opera being hugely in the lead and Nokia following at a respectful distance. (In the case of Indonesia there’s a catch.)

Nigeria, India, and Indonesia are all examples of countries that will basically skip the desktop web because computers are too expensive. A mobile phone, though, is within reach of many people.

Most of these phones are Nokias; the Finnish giant has huge market shares here; about 70% of all sold phones is not uncommon at all. Of course these are mostly cheap phones.

However, either the operator or the consumer has decided that the default Nokia WebKit browser is not good enough, and have installed Opera Mini instead. The reason is simple: money.

Opera Mini is a proxy browser. The Opera Mini client sends the user’s requests on to a server, which does the heavy lifting of requesting the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and renders the page. It then sends the rendered page (basically a highly compressed bitmap) to the Opera Mini client, which shows it on the phone.

Thus Opera Mini can run on phones with very little memory, and the downloaded files are quite small. This saves the customer money both when purchasing the phone and in data traffic. It’s clear why Opera is such a huge browser in developing countries.

Of course that does not make Nokia very happy. Hence its Gecko-based Ovi proxy browser that will come pre-installed on cheap S40 phones and will likely hit the market somewhere later this year.

Nigeria

Stats.

An awesome 27%, or more than one in four, website visits from Nigeria comes from mobile browsers. As far as I know this is the highest share in the world (although I admit I did not go through all 190 or so countries). It’s certainly the highest share among the twelve countries.

The mobile share of website visits doubled this past quarter, and although that could have methodological causes there’s little doubt that the mobile web is big in Nigeria.

We also encounter Opera’s highest share in the twelve countries, and the second-highest of any browser in the twelve: a robust 78%. Reminds one of IE back in the day.

Incidentally, how does it compare to IE in Nigeria? Opera Mini has 78% of 27%, which is 21% of the entire Nigerian browser market. Compare that to IE, which has 40% of 73%, which is 29% of the entire market. A mere 8-point difference. Not bad, Opera, not bad.

In addition to Opera, Bolt, a WebKit-based proxy browser, also has a decent market share in Nigeria, though Opera is gaining on it.

Browser Share Change Remarks
Opera 78% +5
Nokia 10% 0
Bolt 9% -5 WebKit-based proxy browser like Opera Mini
Other 3% 0
WebKit 19% -5 Nokia, Bolt
Mobile 27% +14 Doubled

India

Stats.

India shows pretty much the same picture, although Nokia is considerably larger here. (Because the population is wealthier than Nigeria’s? It sounds logical, but let’s be careful with such explanations.)

Nokia, however, is encountering competition from local phone vendors, especially the previously-unknown G'Five. These locally produced phones are better suited to the Indian market, for instance by having a longer-lasting battery, something that’s very important in rural areas.

Most G'Five phones are reported to be Androids, although it remains questionable whether poor rural users will surf a lot.

Despite this shake-up India is by far the least-changing of the twelve markets when it comes to browsers: from Q3 to Q4 only 1% of market share changed hands. Let’s see if this continues to be the case in India’s rapidly-changing phone market.

Browser Share Change Remarks
Opera 60% 0
Nokia 27% -1
NetFront 7% +1
Samsung 2% 0
Other 4% 0
WebKit 29% -1 Nokia, Samsung
Mobile 16% +2 Mobile browsing as percentage of all browsing

Indonesia

Stats.

Indonesia would have been another illustration of the same theme if BlackBerrys hadn’t been so wildly, wildly popular among the youth.

There’s a major shift going on, and while the BlackBerry share shot up with a suspiciously large jump back in Q3, other sources agree that BlackBerry is a major factor in Indonesia. It’s pretty hard to confuse Opera and BlackBerry, so right now I assume that something has really happened.

Even if we discount the jump entirely, BlackBerry would still be at around 6% or so, and that’s huge for a developing country.

Browser Share Change Remarks
Opera 51% -10 (Too?) large decline
BlackBerry 31% +12 (Too?) large growth
Nokia 13% -1
NetFront 3% 0
Other 2% -1
WebKit 13% -1 Nokia
Mobile 13% +1 Mobile browsing as percentage of all browsing

To be continued

In part 2 we take a look at some developed nations.

This is the blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer. You can also follow him on Twitter.
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