The four device classes

I’ve been thinking a lot about device classes recently, and decided on a provisional four-class scheme. I have no idea if the scheme is going to survive, but we have to at least try to order the bewildering variety of devices somewhat.

While I was at it I also gathered data from StatCounter about the browsing shares of these device classes.

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The four device classes are:

These four categories fall into three markets:

  1. Mobile market: mobile. These devices are bought for their mobile connectivity.
    Devices on this market are subsidised by the mobile operators. Everybody needs a mobile device, even if they’re not interested in other kinds of devices or already own several of them.
  2. Computing device market: desktop and tablet. These devices are bought for productivity and/or media consumption.
    It’s clear that tablets are becoming competitors to desktop computers. One purpose of this new line of research is figuring out how rapidly tablets are going to replace desktops for browsing purposes.
  3. Other markets: other. These are devices that are bought primarily for a goal other than productivity or mobile connections. Examples include gaming consoles or music players. (OK, OK, this remains vague. People can easily buy both a gaming console and a music player.)

In general people buy a mobile device first, then a computing device, then one or more other devices. In the developing world, that usually means people only have a mobile device. Hence the immense change in browsing we’re witnessing.

The stats

With that said, here are the general browsing stats. I use hundredths of percentage points here because some shares are very low. I don’t really like doing that, because it suggests a precisions that StatCounter’s figures do not have, and I’m going to change my methodology later on.

Interestingly, it turns out that the growth of mobile browsing has collapsed in Q4. Where earlier mobile browsing grew with over a percentage point per quarter, in Q4 it grew very little. Let’s see if this is a trend or an outlier before we comment on it.

As to tablets, its rate of growth is itself growing. That’s nothing surprising: the tablet market is growing vigorously, and that is reflected in its browsing shares.

Quarterly market shares of the four device classes
Device class Q4 ch Q3 ch Q2 ch Q1
Desktop 91.35% -0.61 91.96% -1.46 93.42% -1.51 94.93%
Mobile 6.82% +0.18 6.64% +1.14 5.50% +1.31 4.19%
Tablet 1.32% +0.41 0.91% +0.30 0.61% +0.18 0.43%
Other 0.51% +0.02 0.49% +0.02 0.47% +0.02 0.45%

Tablet browsers

Which browsers do tablet users use? Nobody will be particularly surprised to hear that Safari for iPad leads with an immense percentage. Its share is going down, but that’s only because it has very little room to go up.

Keep in mind that we’re using very small numbers here, especially for BlackBerry. If the total share of tablet grows, I expect these numbers to starts to fluctuate.

StatCounter reports slightly less Android browsers than Android OSs. I assume most of these non-default Android browsers to be Opera. The Safari/iOS numbers match perfectly, so very, very few iPad users use a non-default browser.

Quarterly market shares for tablet browsers
Browser Q4 ch Q3 ch Q2 ch Q1
Safari 88% -5 93% -1 94% -4 98%
Android 10% +4 6% +1 5% +3 2%
BlackBerry 1% +1 0 0 0 0 0
Opera and others 1% 0 1% 0 1% +1 0

Classes in 12 countries

Here are the four device classes in my twelve countries. The table clearly shows rather large differences between these countries. Unsurprisingly, developing countries have a high mobile share and a low share of the other three classes.

Four device classes in Q3 2011 in twelve countries
Country Desktop Mobile Tablet Other
Nigeria 53.17% 45.38% 0.97% 0.02%
India 66.39% 33.44% 0.15% 0.02%
South Korea 83.16% 16.06% 0.18% 0.13%
Indonesia 88.83% 10.80% 0.34% 0.03%
US 90.03% 6.87% 1.84% 1.27%
UK 90.10% 7.10% 1.59% 1.22%
Mexico 92.73% 5.82% 0.81% 0.64%
Netherlands 94.07% 3.29% 2.04% 0.60%
China 95.51% 3.73% 0.70% 0.06%
Brazil 95.62% 4.17% 0.17% 0.04%
Egypt 97.81% 1.99% 0.17% 0.03%
Poland 98.46% 1.35% 0.12% 0.06%
Worldwide 91.96% 6.64% 0.91% 0.49%

Findings:

Methodology

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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