As part of our newly-released State of Mobile Bench­mark Report, the Adobe Dig­i­tal Index team ana­lyzed 100 bil­lion vis­its to 1,000+ US web­sites and found that Apple iOS is dri­ving a higher share of traf­fic via both smart­phones and tablets than ever before. We exam­ined web traf­fic rather than device ship­ments and iden­ti­fied an impor­tant con­nec­tion between wire­less car­ri­ers and hand­set proliferation.

iPhone resur­gence tied to avail­abil­ity on wire­less carriers

With its smooth touch screen and mobile opti­mized browser, iPhone became the pre­ferred smart­phone for surf­ing the web soon after its launch, and remained that way until the mid­dle of 2010 when Android phones sur­passed iPhones. How­ever, since being offered on the Ver­i­zon net­work in Feb­ru­ary 2011, the iPhone has been mak­ing up lost ground and again became the pri­mary dri­ver of smart­phone brows­ing in the US dur­ing Q4 2012. We expect the share of brows­ing via iOS to con­tinue to increase now that T-Mobile is also sell­ing the iPhone.

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The Adobe Dig­i­tal Index data is a reflec­tion of which smart­phones are being used most, not which smart­phones are being sold. This is despite third-parties reporting that Android phones are out-selling iPhones. Two fac­tors may explain this dis­par­ity; loy­alty and dura­bil­ity. Loyal cus­tomers tend to use their phones more often and longer before replac­ing them which leads to more usage per sale. Also, as iPhones have become more durable, a sec­ondary mar­ket for used and/or refur­bished phones has devel­oped which fur­ther pro­longs the life and usage of each phone.

iPad dom­i­nant and improving

Unlike the iPhone, the iPad is not depen­dent on wire­less car­ri­ers for dis­tri­b­u­tion and as such has grown more dom­i­nant than the iPhone ever was. Nearly 80% of all tablet brows­ing in the US occurred via iPads in Feb­ru­ary 2013, up 10 per­cent­age points YoY. Most of this increase came after March when the iPad 3 was released and its share peaked in Novem­ber when the iPad 4 and Mini were released.

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Why this mat­ters to marketers

The iPad’s dom­i­nance among tablets is prob­a­bly even more impor­tant than the reemer­gence of iPhone as leader among smart­phones because tablet brows­ing con­tin­ues to grow at a faster rate than smart­phones (tablets sur­pass smart­phones). Sim­i­lar to the PC oper­at­ing sys­tem mar­ket­place of the ‘90s, the mobile oper­at­ing sys­tem mar­ket today is, and is likely to con­tinue to be, a two-horse race. As tablets con­tinue to replace PCs for con­sumer com­put­ing, mar­keters should focus their dig­i­tal opti­miza­tion efforts on these plat­forms in order to deliver the most per­son­al­ized and rel­e­vant mobile expe­ri­ences to consumers.

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Are you sur­prised to see that iPhones are dri­ving a higher share of web traf­fic than Android phones in the US? Share your thoughts with me @tyrwhite and I’ll keep you updated on any changes we see with these two key players.

Read the full State of Mobile Bench­mark report.

Fol­low the Dig­i­tal Index blog or read the rest of our reports.

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