updated 10:09 am EDT, Wed October 16, 2013
Total webshare traffic for 5, 5c and 5s rises as user base updates
Among iPhones accessing the web, the percentage that are the most recent models -- the iPhone 5, the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s -- has undergone a "sizable shift" in the past three weeks to over 40 percent, reports app marketing and analytics firm Chitika. Prior to the introduction of the two latest models, the iPhone 5 alone represented just over one in three iPhones accessing the web. The growth suggests that owners of older iPhones are upgrading along with new buyers coming to the platform for the first time.
Upgrade cycles are a major source of reliable income for smartphones, and Apple's strong ability to keep its user base moving to the next model in roughly two-year cycles reinforces one of the iOS platform's chief advantages over rival Android. Users not only are allowed to upgrade to the latest versions of the operating system (Apple tends to support models three years back) as soon as it is available, but iPhone owners also tend to keep upgrading to the newer models shortly after they appear, meaning developers can focus on the latest technologies and hardware and a handful of models when building their apps and accessories.
Software analytics firm Mixpanel reports that iOS 7 adoption is currently at 72 percent of the active iPhone and iPad user base, with just 3.52 percent using an iOS version older than iOS 6 after only a month of iOS 7 availability. Chitika says that within a few months -- indeed, likely by the end of the year -- "Apple will have a plurality, and possibly a majority, of its iPhone customer base using a [model] less than one and a half years old [on average]." The rise from 36.5 to over 40 percent share began in earnest only a week after the release of the latest iPhone models.
By contrast, according to Google's own re-jiggered figures on Android, just under half of the user base are running last year's "Jelly Bean" OS version, with slightly over half still running versions of the operating system that are two years old and older. Many Android devices aren't compatible or allowed to update to more recent versions by their carriers, creating an effect called "fragmentation" that has proven to be a hindrance for developers, who must write apps to try and fit many varying degrees of hardware and multiple, substantially different versions of the OS.
Apple continues to sell the two-year-old iPhone 4S alongside the iPhone 5c (intended as an iPhone 5 replacement) and more advanced iPhone 5s. CEO Tim Cook and other executives have repeatedly remarked that the iPhone 4 and 4S consistently sold better than Apple had anticipated following the release of the iPhone 5. In many studies, the iPhone 4 and 4S were among the top five individual models of smartphones overall, even up to three years after their initial release. Only flagship phones from Samsung such as the Galaxy S4 have been able to consistently stay in the top five alongside Apple's models.
The Chitika report now shows the "iPhone 5 family" as representing 40.6 percent of the entire iPhone user base, and calls this a "remarkable achievement" in the fast-churning industry, and a claim no other manufacturer can make in terms of rapid hardware adoption. The company says the tendency of iPhone users to upgrade hardware and software so promptly after release has "a significant impact on the iPhone ecosystem... with obvious implications for mobile application and Web developers in terms of compatibility and functionality issues, but also for the technology industry as a whole."