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October 4, 2011 @ 4:37 pm CST

Apple, Please, Pretty Pretty Please, Stop Using Bullshit Statistics

Happy iPhone 4S day, you guys! In case you missed the news, Apple revolutionized everything again. The iPhone 4S is real (in case you were wondering if your dreams would ever come true), and it’s good. In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that it’s one of the best phones on the market. Coming from a guy like me, that’s high praise. Ron might feel differently, of course. If you’re an iOS fan, or a disgruntled Android/WP7 user, there was a lot to get excited about today.

Which is why using shitty statistics and misdirecting info is particularly off-pissing.

In case you’ve never seen an Apple keynote, they tend to start out with a sort of State of the Union; letting everyone know exactly how much Apple is kicking everyone’s butt. This is done to get the crowd excited, and to justify the hours they just stood outside in the cold waiting for someone on a stage to tell them about a new device they can’t buy yet. And Apple is notoriously sucky at being honest with their info. This year, was no exception.

Let’s start where Apple started, shall we? OS X Lion. As you may recall, Apple recently released a bunch of new updates to their desktop OS, threw the king of the jungle on the cover, and called it the best OS out there. And it might be! I haven’t had the privilege of using it myself, but my old MBP running Snow Leopard was one of the best computers I ever had. Apple decided to highlight how awesome their OS is by talking about how quickly people adopted it. To hear Apple tell the story, it took them only 2 weeks to reach 10% user adoption, whereas it took Microsoft 20 weeks to reach that same point.

And how many users is that? It’s about 6 million. Six million! That’s a lot of people! That’s more people than in my home town of Atlanta. Cool! So, how long did it take Microsoft to reach that level of penetration? Well, if we can extrapolate the 175 million installs after nine months backwards, pretending that everyone bought the same number on the last day as the first (hint: they didn’t), and if we can assume absolutely no first-day boost in sales (hint: we can’t), then it took Microsoft about a week and a half to reach 6 million users. Which, according to Apple’s graph, is barely even 1% of their total install base.

Of course, that’s shitty logic. Which is the point. If you have a large userbase, especially one with a heavy corporate presence, reaching a large number of your users is going to take time. It’s great that Apple reached 10% of their userbase so quickly. It really is. However, this doesn’t even make Apple the fastest-selling OS. Windows 7 sold more units and reached a wider audience faster than Apple could dream of. This chart seems to convey the opposite impression.

Let’s look at another area of ever-so-slight misrepresentation: Mobile OS marketshare.

This one is a little more subjective. Unlike desktop platform growth, the number of users on a mobile OS that you can reach with a single app is an important question. A game developer who’s trying to decide what platform will give them the most users right now needs this info. It’s relevant. It is still, however, a little dishonest.

For starters, “iOS” is inclusive of all iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads. These are three separate market segments with three entirely different userbases, use cases, purposes, and sales figures. This is technically a fair comparison, since the Android share also includes tablets and music players. Except that with minor, forgettable exceptions, Android has no presence in the music market. Tablets are at least a fair addition, since Android is pushing just as hard. Whether or not they’re succeeding is another story. Still, the inclusion if all market segments in one chart feels a bit like Microsoft bundling Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7 into one platform and saying that they’re the best selling smartphone platform.

Still, we’ll give Apple a little leeway here, since there is at least an interest in this knowledge. And it’s not like it’s Apple’s job to talk up competitors at their keynote.

There’s still one area, though, that is more than a little misleading: App Store figures.

Apple again touted the size of their rather impressive App Store. This one is more for the end-users who want to know about the ecosystem they’re buying into. And make no mistake, you are buying into an ecsoystem, not just a device. So, Apple, what have you got? More than 500,000 apps in the App Store? Awesome! 140,000 specifically for the iPad, even! Wait, what?

This figure always throws me, because I’m an oblivious, biased, Android fanboy, obviously. However, it’s worth noting that in the Android ecosystem, due to the way that apps are built, phone apps are tablet apps. There’s only one entry for apps like IMDb, Movies, Kindle, etc. that all have phone versions as well as tablet versions. The apps reformat their UIs based on what type of device they’re on. This is a minor quibble. And, frankly, until the Android tablet market takes off, it’s one that’s likely not to matter much (there’s still a ton of Android apps on tablets that don’t have tablet UIs). However, it’s still worth pointing out that when Apple mentions how many tablet-specific apps they have compared to Android, it’s not quite an….*ahem*….apples to apples comparison.

To be perfectly honest, this year was rather light on misinformation and half-truths. We appreciate Apple not going so far as to say that the iPhone is the only phone to ship “in volume”. Still, if you were hoping that Apple was going to skip outright disingenuous information in favor of a “Here’s where we’re strong approach”, I’m going to have to say you’re going to sadly disappointed.

Maybe I can cheer you up with a Mickey Mouse watch for your iPod Nano?



About the Author

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual.




 
 

 
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