Mobile Browsing: A Student Survey

Kevin Smith
on 15 November 2011

Recently, we have been working with a local college to help answer some of their questions on mobile strategy. As part of this, the college studied the browsing habits of their mobile savvy audience. This included students, would be students, parents of students and other miscellaneous visitors to their website. In addition to this they carried out a survey of existing students to find out what kind of phone they had, what kind of phone they wanted in the future and whether or not they would like to be able to access student services on their smart phones. The results of the survey made for some interesting reading so we thought we would share them with you here….

iBrowsing Dominates the Mobile Web

First of, the stats for people accessing their website on a mobile device were (number of visits in one month):

  • iPhone: 1199
  • Android: 502
  • iPad: 488
  • iPod: 154
  • Other: 178

So, despite the plethora of Android handsets, the number of people using them to browse the Internet are less than half that of the iPhone. But what is perhaps even more surprising is that the number of people browsing the site on their iPad is almost the same as those accessing it on their Android phone (or tablet). While these figures are fascinating in and of themselves they are even more remarkable when taken in conjunction with the results from the student survey.

Android and Blackberry Popular with Students

The student survey indicated that almost 80% of those who responded had a smart phone. Of that 80% the breakdown was as follows:

  • Android: 42.3%
  • Blackberry 34.6%
  • iPhone: 11.5%
  • Windows: 3.8%
  • Other: 7.7%

Here we can see that Android is clearly in the majority, followed closely by blackberry. The iPhone comes in third place, perhaps an indication of its student unfriendly price tag when compared to cheaper Android and Blackberry handsets? Either way, with an Android phone in nearly four times as many hands as an iPhone it is quite surprising that the Android handsets do so poorly in the website browsing stats; Two times as many people are using an iPhone to browse the college website when compared to Android, yet four times as many students have Android phones. Now we have to be careful with statistics. There is not a direct correlation between students and people browsing the college website…but it is interesting none the less.

The iPhone: An Aspirational Handset

The final kick in the teeth for Android handsets comes in the last question that we will look at today. Of the 20% that didn’t have a smart phone the answer to the question “What would be your ideal smart phone to have in the future?” revealed the following:

  • iPhone: 47.4%
  • Android: 26.3%
  • Windows: 15.8%
  • Blackberry: 10.5%

Nearly two times as many people without a smart phone want an iPhone than want an Android phone. And, seemingly as predicted, the Windows phone is beginning to gain some ground…at least in terms of potential.

Can we draw any conclusions from these results? Well, it’s hard. I don’t think there is enough information to present a detailed conclusion that would hold any weight but for me, for this sample group, it perhaps suggests the following:

  • People buy Android phones because they want a phone and there are a lot of competitive offers around. But do they really want a ‘do everything phone’ or just a phone they can use to check email and facebook? There is certainly a growing body of evidence that Android phone users browse the mobile web less, download less apps and pay for even fewer apps.
  • People want an iPhone; it’s aspirational. And people that own them use them to access the web. Quite a lot.
  • The iPad is becoming phenomenally popular. With so many people now using them to access the web and using near full power apps to create and consume content, they need to be taken as seriously as a smartphone or a mobile optimised web site when considering your mobile strategy.

So there you have it. Android phones are hugely popular, but when it comes to browsing the mobile web they certainly dont win any prizes. Heard something different? We would love to hear about it. Why not let us know in the comments?

Survey data used by permission of Highbury College, Portsmouth


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