Blog Post

Study: Apple’s iPhone, iPad account for 90 percent of mobile purchases

If people are buying through mobile online retail site, they’re most likely doing so on Apple (s aapl) devices, according to a new report this week from retail analysis firm RichRelevance. iPads and iPhones accounted for over 92 percent of online retail sales not originating from a desktop device occurring in December, according to the study.

That’s up from 88 percent the last time RichRelevance in April, and it easily beat out Android (s goog) and other competing mobile platforms. Shoppers on Apple devices were also willing to spend more, with an average order value of $123 vs. Android’s $101, and $87 from those shopping from traditional desktop operating systems. RichRelevance used data from 3.4 billion online shopping sessions between April and December at U.S. retailers ranging from specialty stores to major e-commerce sites.

Mobile shopping is still a relative drop in the bucket compared to its desktop companion, with just 3.74 percent of total online retail dollars spent in the U.S., but that number is growing. Thanks in large part to the success of Apple devices, mobile web shopping has doubled in eight months, and RichRelevance CEO David Selinger says the trend will only accelerate. Key to being a part of that growth for retailers, Selinger suggests, is “ensuring a seamless experience across the interplay of device, context and consumer behavior.”

Mobile devices seem to be most used for shopping at times when users don’t necessarily have immediate access to other types of computing hardware. For example, RichRelevance found that during Thanksgiving, 24 percent of shoppers visiting retail websites were on mobile devices, the highest share between November and December. On weekends traffic spikes, too, up to 17 percent from an average of 14 percent during the period measured.

If there’s any key takeaway here for Apple’s competition, it’s that the browsing experience is key to mobile commerce. Apple’s iPhone still offers the most true-to-web rendering of non-mobile websites of any smartphone, in my opinion, which means that even if online retailers are slow to tailor their experience to small screens, shoppers can still have a relatively painless shopping experience. It might also just be the case that the demographics of Apple mobile device buyers inclines them toward mobile shopping anyway, since they tend to have a lot of disposable income and be more responsive to advertising.

31 Responses to “Study: Apple’s iPhone, iPad account for 90 percent of mobile purchases”

  1. eReaderguy

    “Turn on Kindle. Finish reading current book. Turn on wireless; shop in Kindle store; purchase / download new book; turn off wireless.”
    Is that not an ‘online purchase?’ And if so, are Kindle etc. device purchases included / accounted for in this study?

  2. Well, based on all the arguments, if i ever want to make money selling apps or selling stuff online, its better working on apples’environment. .. on other issue, why not using you phone to make purchase make it a ‘dumbphone’? Does buying online really that matter to be considered as ‘smart’?

  3. andrew sturgess

    Thank, Martin, for providing some extra insight into the discussion. Whether we (as mostly geeks) like it or not, from a business point of view a greater amount of mobile purchases certainly makes a phone quite a bit smarter. Apple is classically famous for creating markets that, upon appearing, seem ludicrous and are chided as being overtly self-indulgent, yet a few years later the competition follows suit. Is the competition following just a “guilty?” Will we be calling android users adult babies when their slower phones are able to generate a consumer-friendly mobile shopping experience, and if and when the numbers even out? Probably not.

  4. Yeah… yet another article filled with flawed unscientific statistics. Just thought I’d add my 2 cents to let the fanboys know that I’m writing this from one of my 4 android devices and my browser agents are always set to desktop (I don’t really care for mobile sites).

  5. SmoledMan

    Honestly I don’t get the relevance of this stat. I much prefer to do all my online shopping in the comfort of my desktop PC whether it’s my Windows or Mac. The only relevant thing to look at are % of mobile searches on iOS vs Android and % of paid apps sold on iOS vs Android.

    • Gary Brower Jr.

      Besides the benefit for the developer, I don’t understand the willingness to note the % of paid apps sold. Most of the time any app you want is available for free w/ advertising or a paid version available w/o advertising. If you have a unique app on the market people will buy it. If it is a silly game that is worthless in all aspects you can’t expect to charge for it. Perhaps android users are just have more common sense contrasted to apples adult children (or children) spending money for the sake of spending money?

      • Martin Hill

        There we go, resorting to insults again. Can’t you present your arguments without the snark Gary?
        Of course % of paid apps sold is a vital metric. How else is anyone going to be able to judge the relative health of an ecosystem?

        One of the major reasons Windows has been so successful is because that’s where all the developers, software, profits and peripherals were.

        Guess what, today, it is iOS that has the lion’s share of developers, developer profits, apps, manfacturer profits, hardware accessories and peripherals, content and media providers and usage.

        Nokia’s vast smartphone marketshare and installed base was completely useless because of the lack of all of these other metrics and Android is showing disturbing signs of a similarly hollow marketshare victory.

  6. Justin Presley

    the problem with these statistics is that there collection is fundamentally flawed. All browsers give up an agent ID string to websites. This string is so that a website will display properly. The problem is most android devices use the apple/webkit ID because the iphone is recognized and will format properly for the android browser. While websites might have a specific token available for a particular handset, it is safer to use the safari one as both iphone and android browsers are based on webkit. So these sites spewing statistics haave no idea which phone actually did what, it could just as easily be 90% for android.

    • Martin Hill

      Your explanation is fundamentally flawed as the very link you reference indicates that Android browsers also include the word Android in the agent ID string even when they use applewebkit as their engine.

      Eg. Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 2.2; de-de; U0101HA Build/FRF85B) AppleWebKit/533.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile Safari/533.1

    • Gary Brower Jr.

      Also, alot of Android user agents are changed to “Desktop” so that you can get to features not on the mobile version, so that flash will be enabled, or so that you get the full graphical site. Personally, I have a higher end device and prefer the full site experience.

      • Martin Hill

        Gary, you don’t seem to understand that the vast majority of users are not geeks like us and would not have the foggiest idea how to change the browser ID in their browser from the default.

        Can’t you see how ludicrous your argument is to propose that 90% of Android users change their agent ID string?

        Your insults and vitriol only weaken your argument and highlight your lack of evidence to back up your allegations.

  7. It really took a study to figure this shit out? My god this country is fucking stupid. It’s almost as pointless as doing a study to figure out what parking spots in a mall parking lot fill in quicker. May god help us all!

  8. Intriguing stats. I may be wrong, but it’s funny that the most likely driver of the iPhone’s overwhelming dominance is mentioned almost as an after thought in the last sentence!

    Androids sell-through numbers are impressive, no question, but they are based largely on segments of the market that are more price-sensitive and less tech adventurous than iPhone’s. Given these demographic & psychographic differences, this report is surprising only because of the overwhelming numbers. It will be interesting to trend them over time though.

    Happy holidays! :)

  9. Martin Hill

    This figure is extraordinary. It provides further evidence that the vast majority of Android device users must just be using their phones as dumbphones.

    Combine this with general web browsing stats the put iOS devices at 3.8x the web browser share of Android and wifi provider stats that put iOS devices at a far higher majority of mobile devices than Android and 3rd party developer income at between 6-8x the income of android developers and what does it say?

    It all says that the large quarterly sales of Android phones means almost nothing at all.

    Apple’s iOS is where the users, the developers, the apps, content and the money is. There is just no comparison.

    • Don't generalize

      Or maybe it proves exactly what it says..That vast majority of Android users are not buying things online using their phones. You know – things can be bought in other ways!

      • Martin Hill

        A generalization is based on a single observation.

        Multiple reports from many different sources point to a deeper truth.

        How else do you explain away all of these data ponts?

      • by pointing out that not all “apps” require purchases and if you bought an android phone its because you’re not looking to buy into the “I’m an idiot who pay extreme premiums to enhance my Phone [read: toy]”

      • Martin Hill

        Gary, perhaps you could actually provide some evidence to back up your point of view?  
        To expand my original examples that back up the report of 92% of online mobile purchases coming from iOS devices:

        88% of airport wifi usage by mobile devices is made by iOS devices according to Boingo.

        iOS devices have a web browser marketshare 3.8x larger than Android according to Net Applications, W3Counter, WikiMedia and other web Analytics firms.

        iOS developers make between 6 and 8 times the income of Android developers and 73% of new app starts are for iOS according to Flurry.

        I have provided multiple examples that all indicate that Android users don’t seem to use their phones as smartphones.  You have provided squat.

      • Martin,

        Knowing 88% is great if I have an airport wifi network and need to target a market. But then this data is held up as “Android users don’t use their phones”, which is not facts that it’s saying. Maybe the airport wifi doesn’t see the Galaxy Tab that’s in the building because the user has it tethered to their Android phone and is just using their 3G or 4G data connection. If I had unlimited data on my phone, why would I spend money on wifi?

      • Martin Hill

        iPhone or iPad users could just as easily be using 3G or tethered 3G with unlimited data. Your point does not explain why 88% of those who do use the speed and convenience of wifi are iOS users.

    • jabberwolf

      I will agree that for “MOBILE” purchases that most are probably using the iPAD – instead of a computer. That means that most Apple users who have an iPad ( NOT AN IPHONE !!) are using it to purchase things online.

      Kinda stupid actually as mobile lines are notoriously unsafe. Maybe Android users are smarter or just use computer to make purchases?! Nah – they just use computers because they dont use ipads.

      Who would be stupid enough to use small screen phone to examine something they wanted to buy?! OK yes Apple users, but even they want to take a better look – thus in the “mobile” arena – ipads are being used COMPARED TO/INSTEAD OF phones to buy things. Un duh !!