Mobile Metrics

AdMob have announced their Mobile Metrics report [PDF] for 2009 and it makes for some pretty interesting reading. The unstoppable rise of the iPhone OS is to be expected, but it’s nice to see this graph showing change over the last 6 months shows the 3 innovative operating systems all on the rise and everyone else in decline.

Image credit to AdMob of course

A couple of points worth noting…

  • the fact that Windows Mobile’s share has now reached a level with Palm’s webOS and given their current trajectories is actually probably already behind.
  • That despite Nokia’s claims about selling a bazillion times as many “smart” phones as Apple, Symbian is behind iPhone OS in usage terms.

These points raise some interesting questions. We all know Windows is shit. We all know Windows Mobile is shit. But it seems in the mobile phone market the comparatively short life span of the hardware means we can observe sea changes in user adoption happening much faster. It’s easy to imagine the same thing is happening to Windows desktop’s userbase but longer lasting hardware means the changes are slow, glacial shifts. The desktop OS space just needs a few new players doing things right and Windows is screwed. They’re the proverbial oil tanker, too big to slam on the brakes and turn around. Windows 7 isn’t going to save them on the desktop and Windows Mobile 7 isn’t going to have the slightest effect on the mobile market.

And so to Nokia. I’ve watched Nokia’s demise over the last few years with a touch of sadness. They used to be good. They used to be the best. Nokia’s old operating system with the 5 line monochrome display was an absolute joy to use as anyone who ever owned a 3210 will tell you. It was simplicity encapsulated. Nothing took more than a few clicks, and none of those clicks took more than a nanosecond to register. Comparable phones from Motorola or Ericsson at the time were complete dogs. They may have had more features or better reception but they were dogs to actually use.

Somewhere along the line though Nokia lost sight of what they were good at. They became manufacturers, they made a thousand different handsets that all behaved differently and presumably filled some perceived market gap. But worst of all they adopted Symbian, an operating system that hates its users with the power of a thousand suns. Never more would operating a Nokia phone be the pleasure it once had been. Each new handset Nokia released had barely the extra power required to counteract the extra shit that had been added to Symbian in the meantime. Which brings us up to the present day, where Nokia’s sales figures claim to make them the biggest unit sellers of smartphones in the world, but the usage stats show that a mere fraction of those phones are even being used to do something as basic as browse the web. Why? Because they’re so fucking horrible to use that even opening a web browser on them is a chore that no right-thinking person would want to put themselves through.

I have really high hopes that Nokia can regain some credibility with the work they’re doing on Maemo where they’re courting the dev community to build cool stuff for the N900. I’d love to see them courting the UX community in the same way though.