updated 11:23 pm EST, Thu December 20, 2012
Top app for iOS was Maps; for Android, Google services
Ratings company Nielsen has released some end-of-year statistics about smartphones in general, and iOS and Android in particular. The company says that 2012 was the year in which smartphone owners outnumbered non-smartphone owners, growing from 49 percent at the beginning of the year to 56 percent in the third quarter. As a result, top apps saw significant increases in the number of unique visitors per month, many on the order of 50 percent or more compared to last year. The statistics paint a portrait of just how popular top web sites and apps really are.
Leading the pack as usual was Google.com, which saw 172.6 million unique visitors per month to its website either through browsers or apps between January and October of this year. Likewise, Google's YouTube remained the top online video site, with 132 million visitors per month. Facebook was generally in second place in both the "top web brands" and "top iOS app" categories, with 153 million unique monthly visitors, with some 71 million of those coming from either iOS or Android app versions of the service.
Nielsen said that in Q3, Android accounted for 52 percent of smartphone OS marketshare, with iOS capturing 35 percent. BlackBerry was in third with seven percent, with Windows Phone managing two percent. All other systems combined accounted for five percent of smartphone OS share. One interesting difference in Android and iOS owners was in their top apps: in the case of Android, four of the first five positions in "Top Android Apps" were Google sites or services, with Search in first place, followed by Gmail, then the only non-Google entry Facebook, and finally Google Maps and YouTube.
The top iOS app was listed simply as "Maps" by Nielsen, but is taken to mean the Google-powered version of Maps that Apple used prior to introducing its own map solution in September. The changeover to iOS 6 and Apple's Maps began at the very end of September (the end of the third quarter), so its possible impact on the survey would be miniscule. The fact that Maps was the top app for iOS and yet only reached fourth place on Android suggested that iOS users are more likely to utilize the program for navigating on a routine basis, though due to its larger userbase Android monthly users were higher than iOS monthly visitors (42 million versus 32.37 million, respectively).
YouTube was far and away the top site for video, with some well-known alternatives not even cracking the top 10. Even second-place service Yahoo had less than a third of the number of visitors as YouTube. VEVO, AOL and Facebook rounded out the top five streaming video destinations, with CollegeHumor and Hulu snagging seventh and eighth place, respectively.
Apart from Facebook and Google services, Android users seemed to like Pandora, Twitter and Adobe Reader, along with a maintenance app called Advanced Task Killer and The Weather Channel. On the other hand, iOS owners focused on Facebook, YouTube, Stocks, Weather, Facebook Messenger, The Weather Channel, Twitter, Pandora and Instagram. Interestingly, games (or at least direct game apps) didn't make the top 10 on either platform.
The app with the largest gain in audience from January to October was Facebook Messenger, which grew 544 percent year-over-year on iOS. Twitter on Android more than doubled over the course of 2012, growing 122 percent. Instagram fell just shy of tripling its iOS userbase. Overall, the average of monthly visitors to the top 10 Android sites was 25.6 million, while for iOS it was 17.25 million.