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Continued mobile fragmentation presents challenges for marketers: Netbiscuits

A new report from Netbiscuits indicates that fragmentation continues to be a problem in the mobile space, reinforcing the need for retailers and brands to include multiple operating systems as part of their mobile strategy and making it difficult for HTML5 to become a standard.

There is a clear improvement regarding the adoption of HTML5 in the United States, with four HTML5 features supported by a clear majority of the top 10 devices, according to the report. However, the majority of HTML5 features are still only being supported partly or not at all and all other markets show stable or weaker HTML5 adoption.

“HTML5 is not even targeted to be an approved standard until 2014 so the continued fractionalization of devices, browsers, and operating systems, make standardization of HTML5 a moving target,” said Craig Besnoy, U.S. managing director of Netbiscuits, New York.

“This is why we believe it will be very difficult for HTML5 to ever become the pervasive mobile Web standard,” he said.

Fragmentation here to stay
The four HTML5 features being supported by a majority of devices in the U.S. are offline Web application support, geolocation, 2D rendering and Webstorage.

The Netbiscuits platform delivers 8.5 billion page and content items per month and has 100 million unique users per month.

Android leads for the United States.

The Mobile Web Metrics Report H2/2011 shows that the challenges of fragmentation are not limited to feature phones, with fragmentation here to stay in the mobile space as smartphone and tablet penetration grows.

Fragmentation among operating systems continues, with Android having a 45.96 percent share of the traffic on the Netbiscuits platform in the U.S., iOS 34.84 percent, RIM OS 14.66 percent, Symbian 1.34 percent and Windows Phone 1.31 percent. 

While Android has become the leading smartphone OS in North America, the numbers show that iOS is still the leader in Western Europe, South and Central America and the Middle East and Northern Africa.

For marketers, iOS, Android and Symbian are the smartphone operating systems that need to be focused in order to be able to reach out to more than 80 percent of all smartphone users globally.

Only in the U.S. and Singapore is it currently sufficient to cater to only two smartphone operating systems in order to reach more than 80 percent of all smartphone users.

Besides fragmentation by operating systems, fragmentation also exists for devices based on the same operating system, with not all devices running the same version of an OS.

Such vertical fragmentation exists for both Apple and Android, although it is more apparent for Android, with 0.59 percent of devices running Android 3.0, 16.4 percent running Android 2.3, 57.68 percent running Android 2.2 and 22.94 percent running Android 1.5-2.1.

Screen sizes also differ widely across Android devices.

Even if all iPhones and Android devices were running on the latest version of their operating system, differences in hardware would still get in the way of delivering a single user experience.

By type of device, smartphones had a 79.36 percent share of traffic on the Netbiscuits platform in North America, feature phones 11.04 percent, media players 6.86 percent, media tablets 0.85 percent

While smartphones are by far the most important Web access channel in all developed region, tablets have become the third most relevant Web access channel for Netbscuits in the developed Asia-Pacific region where they have an 8.03 percent share.

“What this report shows marketers is that you cannot develop a mobile strategy based on iPhone or even Android alone,” said Mr. Besnoy said.

“There are too many devices in the hands of consumers across the globe to take a single device or single OS approach,” he said.

“Fragmentation, while it’s steadied a little since our last report, remains a problem for marketers that will get worse as Microsoft continues its push into mobile, Android gains even more market share and players like Nokia and BlackBerry try to win back consumers with new devices.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York