Blog Post

Java Phones Make A Comeback In Late 2011, But Don't Dump Android Just Yet

What provoked the sudden upsurge in feature phone usage during October? A report out over the weekend from Net Applications shows that after a year of steady decline feature phone Web usage actually surpassed Android during the last quarter of the year, but no one seems to be able to explain why.

Fortune picked up on the Net Applications report, which tracks mobile visits to a large collection of Web sites in order to identify usage trends across the 160 million visitors to those sites. Feature phones running Java ME, a very basic mobile operating system, have been on a steady decline all year with the growth of Android and iOS usage, but for some reason spiked in November and December to surpass Android Web usage.

It’s not entirely clear what caused the bump, but the report shows an unusual spike in October involving several different platforms. Java phones still make up a sizable percentage of the mobile devices running around the world but are losing influence and users as smartphones become cheaper and more widespread.

The report is worth flagging because of the trend reversal as well as the continued evidence that despite huge market share gains in 2011, Android users still don’t browse the Web in anything close to a similar proportion. (Apple’s iOS dominates mobile Web usage with 52.1 percent of the market in December and has held that top spot for several years.) However, it’s not necessarily a sign that feature phones are poised for a mobile comeback just yet.