Dominant Devices: Dramatically Increase the ROI of Your Mobile Strategy

With mobile web users at 1.2 billion and growing rapidly, brands are putting more and more emphasis on their mobile strategy. Optimizing content for mobile takes time and energy, and depending on your approach to multi-device compatibility, it may not deliver the return on investment you’d expect, as Herman Gonzalez points out.

Optimizing content for model variations can be costly and difficult to maintain.

One major cost consideration in a mobile strategy is multi-device compatibility, even using smart new design principles such as responsive design, as discussed by my colleague Erik Hallander in our company blog post, means there is additional effort and cost in every handset type you optimize for. Whether it’s for mobile sites or mobile apps, it’s not as simple as making everything smaller. That’s because each mobile device/model can vary on operating system version, screen display size, and quality, inputs, networks, connectivity, CPU, GPU, chipset, memory capacity, camera(s), and special features. On top of that, people are using their mobiles differently to desktop PCs and tablets.

Android has created an influx of new mobile and tablet devices.

When the iPhone was the only mobile handset with major penetration it was easier, you had one device to design for. Now with Google’s free Android operating system, there are an additional 156 mobile models being sold, and an additional 48 Android-based tablets. So it’s a whole lot more complex, and therefore expensive, to establish and maintain a 100 percent multi-device strategy.

Source: List of Android devices
Source: List of iOS devices

On top of each device being different, the fundamental way the Android operating system is designed creates even bigger challenges, like the fact that supporting old and new versions is time consuming and complex. More on that in a post by Erik on “The Android Conundrum.”

Some handsets dominate mobile usage.

When considering mobile for our clients, we identified an interesting trend. About one to two brands and a total of four to five devices make up 90 percent of Android web traffic, so we call these the Dominant Devices.

Putting that in perspective, Apple devices average 83 percent of all mobile traffic, hovering around 80-95 percent, Samsung sits second averaging 5 percent, hovering around 3-5 percent, with the Galaxy making up the majority of that traffic.

So this raises the question, is there value in building a fully optimized set of sites for 3-5 percent of your mobile visitors? Well maybe. But optimizing for devices that make up less than 1 percent of your mobile visitors is unlikely to deliver a solid return on investment. (Source: Google Analytics May 2011 – May 2012)

So when thinking about optimizing for mobile, consider focusing on the Dominant Devices, i.e., Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, and even Nokia N80, to save time and money.

Identify your Dominant Devices.

So when considering the cost of optimizing content, mobile sites and apps for multi-device compatibility, apply the 80/20 rule by focusing your energy on the 20 percent of devices that 80 percent of your audience use. Using tools like Google Analytics and Omniture, you’ll quickly see which handsets are being used to access your website.

Key outtake:
Identify your Dominant Devices and evaluate the cost of optimizing and maintaining content and functionality for them.

Initial regional device data to get you started:

Related reading

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