Smartphone and Tablet Market Merging

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Netbiscuits has released its latest quarterly Web Trends Report, revealing mobile vendors and brands alike under increasing pressure to perform and deliver. The report, based on a sample of over a billion hits per month, shows the growing continuum of screen sizes is making it increasingly difficult to identify break points. Fragmentation of the mobile market not only makes it harder for brands to deliver consistent mobile web experiences, but also makes competition between vendors fiercer and more unpredictable.

Top 100 devices cover 67% of global web traffic

The Top 10 devices accounted for only 47% of total traffic on the Netbiscuits Cloud Platform, down from 48% just three months ago. The report found that even the Top 100 devices globally cover just over two-thirds (67%) of mobile web traffic. Among these were 26 unique screen sizes in total, ranging from 2.36 inches to 10.1 inches. A year ago, there were only four tablet devices among the Top 100. This has now more than doubled to 10.

Increasing numbers of devices are overlapping between screen size categories, making it more difficult than ever to identify break points without taking into account additional factors such as device performance. The ongoing blurring of definitions this creates is likely to gather momentum in 2014, as device vendors continue trying to be ‘all things to all people’.

Apple follows Android’s lead

The Netbiscuits traffic shows that there are an increasing number of older Apple devices being used as new devices are slow to achieve full market penetration. Nevertheless, Apple’s recent release of the iPhone 5S and 5C demonstrates a fast-expanding product portfolio which is adding to global device fragmentation as seen in the Android market. The two new phones with the same screen size are built to different specifications and deliver different experiences – making it riskier than ever to design for screen sizes alone. There are currently unprecedented levels of fragmentation on Apple’s platform with four device types and five operating systems in use, although this is still a far cry from Android’s eight operating system versions alone. The complexity challenge for developers has always been high with Android, and the latest figures show Apple heading in a similar direction.

Local variation impacts global experience

Devices at a local level continue to differ tremendously, making it difficult to deliver consistent experiences across the globe. In Latin America, the Top 10 devices represent only a third (35%) of the total web traffic, whereas in Western Europe it is almost half (49%). Device preference also varies. Although Apple represented over half of the North American market, in Western Europe, Samsung had a third of the market share. Nokia dominated in the Middle East with over a third (36%) global traffic share. The greatest proportion of other vendors existed in Asia Pacific where local vendors tend to be more prevalent, and hold over a fifth of market share (21%).

“We are beginning to notice that there is no longer a clear, discernible “smartphone” or “tablet” market, because they are merging through the continuum of sizes from 2.36 to 10.1 inches,” commented Daniel Weisbeck CMO and COO, Netbiscuits. “The share of Top 10 devices will continue to erode, as consumers continue to buy a range of different tablets, phablets and smartphones and eventually wearables. This will make identifying break points between devices increasingly difficult, until screen size becomes a meaningless way of deciding how to deliver a great mobile experience. As the smartphone market continues to mature, existing handset manufacturers and newcomers will continue to compete, each looking to differentiate at a hardware and software level, and each contributing to the growth of fragmentation. This is especially true of emerging markets such as China and India, where cheaper local vendors have an advantage and an opportunity to grow their market share. Of course this will also add differentiation to the market. Now is the time for brands to really wake up and execute effective adaptive mobile web strategies that work on every device for every one of their customers.”

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