Which Mobile Platform Versions to Support in 2017

Happy New Year from a chilly Rectangular HQ here in the Kent Downs.

The start of a new year seems as good a time as any to revisit our advice to our clients on mobile platform versions. Back in August we recommended iOS 8 and Android 4.1 as the oldest operating system versions that should typically be supported by new native app projects. Since then both Apple and Google have released major new versions – iOS 10 and Android 7 (Nougat) – and the percentage of devices running older software has declined further.

As always, picking a target version is a trade-off between the size of your potential user base (the more versions you support, the more people can use your app) and being able to take advantage of new features and design improvements that are either only available in the newer versions or require extra development effort to support on older devices.

For iOS the picture is clear. Apple is aggressive in driving the adoption of new versions of its mobile OS to the extent that it makes it difficult for developers to support anything older than the current major version and its immediate predecessor. iOS 10 was released in September and by late November was already installed on 63% of devices that accessed the App Store. Most of the other devices were running iOS 9, with only 8% on earlier versions. With 92% of users on iOS 9 or later and Apple having withdrawn support for iOS 8 development, all new apps should target iOS 9 and above.

The Android situation is different. Google does not have the same control over devices and so cannot drive adoption of new versions in the same way. This is mitigated to some extent by its efforts to support continued development for older Android versions. Whereas Apple went from 0% to 63% adoption of iOS 10 in little over two months, Google has managed to get only 0.4% of users onto Android 7.x in four months. To match the 92% penetration you’d get from iOS 9 (released September 2015) and above, you’d have to support Android versions back to 4.2 (released November 2012).

In August we recommend Android 4.1 as the minimum version to target. Today we’re updating that to 4.2 but in truth it makes little difference and apps developed for 4.2 may still work on 4.1 (an extra 4.5% of users) if there are no technical obstacles. The real progress will come when projects can drop support for all 4.x versions of Android and target only 5.0 and later but with only 60.3% of devices currently running 5.x, 6.x or 7.x that will not happen this year.

If you’re planning on building an app for your business in 2017 and want to discuss your options with no obligations, please get in touch.


iOS Market Share Continues to Grow, Android Still Dominant

Kantar Worldpanel today released its latest smartphone OS market share data – for the 3 months ending July 2016. The picture is broadly similar to two months ago, but Apple’s share of new device sales has increased in most of the featured countries, an effect Kantar attributes to the success of the smaller, less expensive iPhone SE.

As usual Apple is strongest in anglophone countries. 38% of all new smartphone sales in Great Britain are iOS devices, up from 32.8% in the same period last year (and 2% higher than in Kantar’s July figures). In the US Apple now accounts for 31.3% of sales and in Australia it’s 35.2%.

Despite Apple’s strong performance, Android is still way in front in terms of number of devices sold. It has declined slightly in the US over the last year – dropping from 65.6% to 65% – but continues to grow everywhere else. Across the big 5 EU countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK) Android’s share is up to 77% and in China it’s 85%.

With both iOS and Android on the up somebody else has to be losing out and it’s Microsoft. Windows Phone now accounts for less than 5% of device sales everywhere. More than ever the smartphone OS market is a duopoly.

Full figures can be downloaded from the Kantar website.

Android Exceeds 75% Market Share in Europe

Kantar Worldpanel today released its latest smartphone OS market share figures, based on sales in the three months up until the end of May 2016. These show the continued advance of Android, which accounts for the majority of devices sold everywhere and is almost completely dominant in countries such as Spain (92.8%) and Italy (80.9%). Across the 5 largest EU markets (France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain), Android accounts for 76.5% of devices sold (up from 70.5% in the same period last year). However, Apple’s iOS market share in those 5 European countries has dropped by only half a percentage point to 18.3%; it is Windows Phone that has been the biggest loser, with over half its share wiped out over the last 12 months (dropping from 9.6% to 4.6%).

If you’re targeting European smartphone users, the message is that Android is the most important place for your app to be. However, if you haven’t translated your app into other languages, your user base is likely to consist mostly of people in English-speaking countries, where the picture differs. Android remains number one in terms of number of users but Apple’s share of the market is much higher in Britain (36% and rising), Australia (32.5%) and the USA (29.3%) than it is in continental Europe or China.

The decline of Windows Phone – now almost entirely absent from the US, China and Japan, and only a peripheral player in Europe – means that, perhaps more than ever, there are only two platforms that remain relevant for new app development.

Apple Regaining Lost Ground in Smartphone OS Figures

The latest report from Kantar Worldpanel shows that Android’s dominance of the smartphone OS market waned a little in 2014. Across the big 5 European markets (Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy and Spain) Android still runs on two thirds of smartphones sold in the 3 months ending November 2014 but this share has declined 3.2 percentage points from the same period last year while Apple’s iOS is up 6.3. It’s a similar story in the US but the Android/iOS split is now much more even (48.4% to 47.4%). The swing to Apple is most pronounced in Britain where iOS market share is up 12.2 percentage points since last year. The Apple resurgence is bad news for Microsoft as Windows Phone market share has been squeezed in most markets, down to 8.3% across the 5 EU countries and down to 3% in the US.

Smartphone Report Shows Increased Android Dominance, Continued Blackberry Decline and Improved Fortunes for Windows Phone

Kantar World Panel today published its latest smartphone market share report, this time showing sales figures for Q1 2013 in nine key countries. The numbers show an increased dominance for the Android operating system, which is number one in eight out of the nine territories, with Apple’s iOS in second place. The odd country out is Japan where iOS is a few percent ahead of Android. Android sales are a long way in front everywhere else except for the US where the race remains close. iOS share is down marginally everywhere but the biggest loser is Blackberry, which now accounts for less than 1% of the market in six out of the nine featured countries and has fallen behind the increasingly popular Windows Phone in all of them.

Here in Britain, Android phones were bought by 58.4% of smartphone buyers in the first three months of the year, with Apple devices favoured by 28.7% and Windows Phone in third place on 7%.  Across the five largest EU markets (GB, Germany, France, Italy, Spain) the picture is similar though skewed more in favour of Android, which accounts for nearly three quarters of sales in Germany and a massive 93.5% of Spanish sales.

Kantar is predicting further gains for Android in coming months due to sales of new flagship devices such as the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4.