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Device fragmentation still an issue

Mobile device fragmentation is a big headache for companies who don’t optimize their web presence to address differences between web-enabled devices. To underline how big the fragmentation issue is, we analyzed DeviceAtlas web browsing statistics from Q4 2016 focusing on diversity in terms of device characteristics.

There are now fewer OSes but fragmentation still exists

Not too long ago, there were several competing mobile OSes with significant market share, including Palm OS, Windows Mobile (later Windows Phone), Symbian, BlackBerry OS, Bada, iOS, and Android. To make things even worse, there were also high-end feature phones equipped with a touchscreen capable of viewing websites. A good example is LG Prada which was the first ever phone to use a capacitive touchscreen, and, at the same time, a feature phone.

This variety is no longer the case, given that today only two mobile OSes rule the sales and device usage charts: Android and iOS. Gartner reported recently that Blackberry hit "0%" market share in terms of shipments in Q4 2016, while for Windows it was a humble 0.3%.

With this in mind, you may think that device fragmentation is finally over and that you no longer need to worry about the variety of mobile phones out there. But, of course, the truth is a lot different.

Looking at web browsing statistics pulled from DeviceAtlas, we analyzed if device fragmentation is still an issue in Q4 2016. We calculated the number of unique device characteristics generating website visits in each country. The following statistics for the USA are based on a sample of web traffic to hundreds of thousands of partner websites using DeviceAtlas.

Country Device characteristics Device types in use (Q4 2016)
USA Device manufacturers 243
USA Phone models 2,021
USA Screen sizes 79
USA Operating systems 24
USA Mobile browsers 23

In Q4 2016 in the USA alone there were 243 device manufacturers whose devices were used for web browsing in that period. These devices had 79 different screen sizes, 24 different operating systems, and 23 different mobile browsers.

As you can imagine, the landscape in other countries is quite similar. While the share of web traffic for OSes other than iOS and Android is negligible, the variety of screen sizes, screen resolutions, mobile browsers, phone makers, phone models, phone capabilities, etc. is truly immense.

Screen sizes and screen resolutions are now a major concern

Of all device usage stats, arguably screen sizes and screen resolutions are the biggest concern today, especially due to the fact that the way people use a 4-inch iPhone SE is so much different from the way they use a 5.7-inch Nexus 6P. For all companies in the online space, it definitely makes sense to address multiple screen sizes and screen resolutions in a fundamentally different way. Here are the top 10 screen sizes and screen resolutions in the USA based on web browsing statistics in Q4 2016.

Position Diagonal screen size Web traffic in the USA Example device
1 4.7-inch 26.6% iPhone 7
2 5.5-inch 16.3% Samsung Galaxy J7
3 4-inch 15.3% iPhone SE
4 5.1-inch 14.4% Samsung Galaxy S7
5 5.7-inch 8.4% Nexus 6P
6 5-inch 8.7% Samsung Galaxy J5
7 4.5-inch 3.1% Samsung Galaxy J1
8 5.2-inch 1.1% Huawei P9
9 3.5-inch 1% Blackberry Classic
10 5.3-inch 0.8% LG G5

For more information, check out our analysis on the most used screen sizes and screen resolutions in 2016.

Phone makers

The phone maker landscape in 2016 is a fascinating battlefield where new arrivals, such as Vivo and Oppo, are defeating the venerable players such as HTC, Sony, and LG. There are also plenty of locally-popular makers which rarely get noticed outside several target markets. The following table shows 10 popular lesser-known makers including a country where these manufacturers are particularly popular.

Phone manufacturer Country Share of web traffic
Motorola Brazil 24.4%
QMobile Pakistan 18.5%
Blu Jamaica 13.4%
ZTE Venezuela 12.1%
Infinix Nigeria 8%
bq Spain 6.6%
Micromax India 5.8%
Allview Romania 5.4%
Smartisan China 4.4%
Sharp Japan 4%

Not everyone uses an iPhone

2,000+ phone models actively used for web browsing in the USA is definitely an issue, especially for companies who build their digital strategy around a risky assumption that everyone uses an iPhone. Yes, Apple devices are hugely popular, but all Android phones generate more web traffic than iPhones in 42 countries we analyzed. This number includes many major markets such as the following:



Selected markets where Android was the most used mobile OS in Q4 2016


That being said, it’s fair to say that Apple takes a lion’s share of web traffic everywhere which, in many cases, is higher than its sales market share which globally is only at 17%, according to IDC. However, for the web browsing share, the way people use their phones is a more important factor than the number of devices sold. iPhones are expensive, high-end devices often used on generous data plans in areas where LTE connectivity is available. This may not be the case for Android phones which are available in every price category. Apple phones are the most used in the following countries:



Selected markets where iOS was the most used mobile OS in Q4 2016


Mobile browsers

Mobile device fragmentation is also related to mobile browsers. This issue is particularly important for web developers who need to test if the website works well on all mobile browsers which are popular in the target region.

A good example underlining the problem is the increasing popularity of Samsung Browser. Up until recently, this browser wasn’t even visible in the web browsing statistics. But now it occupies the third or second place in most countries in terms of website visits. Here are the top three mobile browsers in selected countries based on web traffic in Q4 2016.

Country Position Mobile Browser
USA 1 Safari Mobile
USA 2 Chrome Mobile
USA 3 Samsung Browser
Country Position Mobile Browser
Germany 1 Chrome Mobile
Germany 2 Safari Mobile
Germany 3 Samsung Browser
Country Position Mobile Browser
Brazil 1 Chrome Mobile
Brazil 2 Safari Mobile
Brazil 3 Android Browser
Country Position Mobile Browser
India 1 Chrome Mobile
India 2 Safari Mobile
India 3 Samsung Browser
Country Position Mobile Browser
Nigeria 1 Chrome Mobile
Nigeria 2 Samsung Browser
Nigeria 3 Safari Mobile
Country Position Mobile Browser
Australia 1 Safari Mobile
Australia 2 Chrome Mobile
Australia 3 Samsung Browser/  

To learn more about the diversity in the mobile world, visit our recently published articles covering the most used phone makers, the most used screen resolutions, and the most used mobile browsers in selected local markets.

Also, check out the quarterly Mobile Web Intelligence Reports which helps you get a better understanding of what devices are used in your target market.

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