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.

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