Dark Matter

Benedict Evans explains well the problem with measuring Android tablets. There are no reliable data collected because many of the devices are invisible through the regular, measurable channels:

  • There are no firms which report their shipments
  • They are not sold through retail chains which normally are sampled in the US and Europe (NPD and GfK respectively.)
  • They don’t show up in browsing or ad transaction data
  • Google Play statistics are missing most of the activations since they are not sold as bona fide Google-sanctioned Android.

The only measured statistic happens to be component shipments. Items such as screens, CPUs or perhaps memory might be visible to market analysts. It’s therefore tempting to add up tires manufactured to determine what’s getting sold in auto dealerships.

But it’s also hugely problematic.

Before we go into that rat’s hole, I want to re-visit my original criticism for market analysis based on device attributes. When the iPad was new it was famously labeled a “media tablet” by Gartner and excluded from being counted (and hence compared) with PCs. This created an implicit signal to the analyst’s clients to ignore the entrant as irrelevant.

That actually accelerated their demise (and the revenue prospects for the analyst).

In contrast to that exclusion–of a clear and present danger based on an arbitrary definition of form factor–the analyst who defines categories of products purely on the definition of their components is guilty of the same sin.

Snowing the audience with irrelevant comparisons is just as bad as withholding relevant comparisons. This is explicitly asked of witnesses: to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The “nothing but the truth” means the exclusion of irrelevance.

The correct approach is to identify which devices are comparable (and thus in the same category) based on the jobs they’re hired to do. If a tablet overlaps considerably in the work it does with a PC (e.g. browsing, email, media play, and other applications) then they should be considered comparable. If a tablet does nothing that a PC does or nothing that an iPad does (e.g. no browsing, email, apps or ecosystem activity other than piracy) then they should not be considered comparable.

Which brings me back to the question of what these dark matter “Android tablets” actually do.

To answer I want to recall another “dark matter” technology that seems to have gone largely unnoticed but was exceptionally popular. This was the VCD or Video CD. It was an alternative to the DVD without the licensing and DRM overhead it entailed. It was extremely popular in Asia as a way of not only buying but also sharing video content. The cost of content was a fraction of sanctioned versions, essentially taking the role that mass-copied VHS had in previous years.

The “job to be done” was to enjoy video content cheaply and conveniently for the equivalent of pennies a day. A job very similar to what we think of as cable TV today.

These devices and discs were largely invisible mainly because they did not exist in economies which adopted protected DVDs and because the content consumed did not hit against any databases that tracked consumption. Nevertheless there might have been hundreds of millions of these devices sold and billions of discs viewed.

Now we are in a situation where devices whose primary purpose is to watch video content (cheaply and conveniently) are being counted. By their counting, their implicit competitiveness is asserted. But it means nothing if they are not hired for the same jobs. In fact it misdirects attention.

Sometimes these “low end” devices do grow up to swamp the higher-powered alternatives with good enough functionality. That is the innovator’s dilemma for low end disruption. But in some cases they don’t because other factors are at work. Because ecosystems have complex multi-sided markets and because regulations and channels and consumer behavior conflict with the technical specification.

For this reason the VCD did not “disrupt” DVD or grow up into a Blu-Ray equivalent that caused Hollywood to crumble. It faded away as an anomaly.

Whether the dark matter Video-only Android device will come to swamp the iPad will depend not on just volume shipments in select geographies. It will depend largely on the ecosystems built around it. The ecosystems of VCD were largely unsustainable because there was no value placed on the content itself. The value chain did not strive to sustain the technology. When something better came along, it got dropped.

In contrast, content-based value chains sustain technologies which keep the revenues coming. And we can measure this revenue.

You don’t need to look too hard for that in tablets. Apple states it quite frequently: total payments to developers.

  • I believe that Apple does more than paying developers, they base their entire strategy on sustaining developers because they know the ecosystem is the value chain that sustain their products.
    Minimal form factors, API consistency, API quality, OS free and easy upgrade etc… are all decisions that address developers more than end users, that could be glad with more differentiated products.
    And yet the economics of the app store does not sustain productivity apps, mainly because you can not have payed upgrades.
    I believe there is fear to become too developers dependent, a fear of a killer app.
    Total payment yes, total or even some control to developers? NO

    • charly

      Apple needs to be nice to developers because they are a minority market.

      • money

        Not in money earned by developers, which developers probably care about.

      • charly

        That is not how the real world works. You must be were your clients are, not were the profits is

      • Space Gorilla

        Ah, more excellent business advice, don’t go where the profit is. Duly noted. You are a business genius! 🙂

      • charly

        That is often a reason why businesses fail. To much profit orientated which doesn’t allow them to invest in parts of the business that don’t a return of investment. See GM and engines in the 50’s until 70’s for example

      • But iOS is the platform where developers earns the most and there not a treat in this dominance at the horizon.

      • money

        That was my point, yes. They are not a minority share of the market in this key area.

      • Oh yes now I get it

      • charly

        What do you mean with earn most?

        Wage, appstore income or total income?

        Also most programmers don’t earn their income from “shrink-wrap” sales

        PS. Google appstore has about the same income as Apple appstore but with Android there are many other appstores and you can even sell it yourself which are all not possible with ios

      • pk_de_cville


        There’s a ton of evidence that’s been reported against your view which is something like – Android pays better than iOS.

        I leave you to your research.

      • charly

        I don’t care who pays more out. Software for sale is a very small market outside of games. Especially on ios where a lot of software is free but you have to pay a service to use it (see salesforce, Office etc)

      • mjoecups

        This was always true in the past, but is no longer true in the present. IOS has become the dominant platform for developers.

        Still I agree with the basic point made above, that Apple gets the fact that in this run and shoot war, the software is the most powerful weapon. Keeping the platform steady and upgradable makes for a very attractive ecosystem for developers.

  • robdk

    I guess the next, logical conclusion would be to remove the analyst estimates of ‘white box’ android tablets and Chinese android tablets from the guilty analyst firms that have been promoting these numbers.

    Daniel Eran Dilger at appleinsider has written some very interesting articles documenting how Gartner and IDC have ‘manufactured’ data for millions of extra android tablets to diminish Apple’s dominance:

    Maybe then we would end up with a ‘tablet’ category that reflects reality: 70-80% of global tablet usage by the iPad.

    • obarthelemy

      I’m puzzled by why that discussion never arose for PCs: shoudl PCs used to browse the interwebz have been counted differently than PCs used to run Mathematica ?

      • Kizedek

        No, but cash registers and petrol pumps that run Windows shouldn’t have be counted.

      • Javbw

        They always try to break it down into education, enterprise, home, business, etc for finding sales trends in PCs. Overall market share helps when explaining dominance in a mature market, but this is a rapidly growing market, so it doesn’t work as well.

        Showing units sold helped the PC manufactuers or Microsoft if the windows copy wasn’t pirated, but if you are analyzing the sucess of the major tablet players now, apple, Google, Samsung – the only ones shown to be making money from tablet sales, then off brand tablets that don’t put money in googles pocket (or any android Dev) don’t really matter. It is still up for debate if Google is earning any money at all from android, let alone from tablet sales where Samsung keeps all the profit.

        Horace’s entire point is that propping up the android tablet numbers with filler is not helpful to anyone. Even if all of those tablets sold were tablets, we can see from where the money goes that they are not consuming. Not much web use, not any app purchases, and not a big user of google services because we can see web trends pretty clearly, and see the choices of devs on who they make apps for, as well as p&l.

        This is a complaint that the analsist companies are not doing their job, not offering compelling analsys because they are massaging the numbers tofit a narrative, and hiding a disruption of PCs because their purse strings have long time ties to the PC makers. And all the vendors are mum on numbers, presumably because they suck.

      • Tatil_S

        >”then off brand tablets that don’t put money in googles pocket (or any android Dev) don’t really matter. ”

        It may not matter for them, but they are still very valuable for component makers, who are among the primary customers of these research reports to more accurately align their R&D resources with where the hardware market is headed.

        Tablets and Windows PCs may do similar jobs for the end users, but some of their internal components have substantial differences. For players in the hardware industry trying to decide on development plans now for the components used in products to be shipped two years from now, the two markets can be quite distinct for product development. (Counting Surface RT tablets among PCs, rather than with the rest of the tablet market may be dubious, but with quarterly Surface RT sales being so negligible, it does not matter that much.) It is not all together IDC’s fault that these technical forecasts have turned into horserace material for bloggers and fan sites.

      • obarthelemy

        But they *are* consuming. Maybe free stuff. Maybe stuff that’s ad-supported. Maybe stuff that’s not tracked (Chinese sites….).

        If we were using the same criteria for TV, free-to-Air would be dismissed and pay-TV idolized; yet which is the most important, economically, culturally,…. ?

      • pk_de_cville

        Free to Air is profitable through ad sales. And its hired to do the same job as pay-TV: consuming TV shows (with costs covered by advertisers 100%) vs pay-TV (costs covered by subscribers and advertisers.)

  • Tatil_S

    I don’t quite get why a tablet capable of playing videos cannot be used for web browsing, email or social networking. When the web browsing statistics claim these tablets are not used for online activity, are we sure they accurately capture the use patterns, rather than demonstrating their inability to interface with the places visited by the tablets? Considering streaming video watching is more popular in China than TV watching, ( ) it would not be surprising to find many users watching these videos on their tablets. Does that not count as web browsing? Are the data gathering firms able to track users as they connect to China only streaming video or social networking sites?

    Unless all these tablet users are missing WiFi connections at their residences, this does not quite add up.

    • rattyuk

      I believe Ben Evans was showing USB sticks that let you play videos onto a TV with an sd card slot that were reporting themselves as “tablets” while they most certainly weren’t tablets measured by any metric at all.

      • obarthelemy

        No. He was showing an “Android stick”, which has HDMI-out, is powered by a micro-USB port, and has wifi, BT, µSD and USB connectivity. More advanced variants, often in the form of small boxes, add several USB, optical out, an integrated webcam…

        All of those run Android, and many do have the full PlayStore ecosystem. Add a keyboard, mouse webcam and screen, and you’ve got a PC largely on par with what Windows 3.1 was doing, except windowing. I’m replacing friends’ and relatives’ PCs with those quite often: email Skype web and silly games are all those are used for, mostly.

      • Tatil_S

        Unless somebody has any evidence these sticks are mistakenly counted as tablets, they are irrelevant to this “dark matter” analysis. His “car stereo” example could be mistaken as a tablet if you base your statistics on touch screens. Sticks are more difficult to miscount due to lack of one.

      • robdk

        Read the original article by Ben. No android manufacturer publish tablet sales. So gartner and IDC guess android tablet sales by counting sales of ARM SoC’s etc. So they are just as likely to be counting smart android toasters as tablets.

      • Tatil_S

        They also count screen sales, as mentioned in the “original article”. As such, some car stereos with large screens could be easily miscounted, but sticks are easier to classify.

      • charly

        How many of those car stereos are sold? My guess is not many compared to tablets

      • Walt French

        There must be a raft of ARM SoCs that are used for NAS’s or other non-Android applications. But increasingly, Android would seem to be the OS of choice, since it comes with a much richer UX than other OS’s. I would assume that Android is already by far the dominant linux and will only become more so.

      • charly

        Nas etc. use browser based UX as they rarely have their own screens.

      • obarthelemy

        The SoCs used in NASes/routers are different from the ones used in tablets. Ususally, they have no GPU, very low performance, ad other limitations (clock speed, cores, ARM version). They could in no way be confused with tablet SoCs, and I’m not aware of a single exception even at the very high end. Ditto for most embedded ARM chips, who are barely one step up from microcontrolers.
        Unless IDC/Gartner are doing something extremely dumb (like counting ARM cores instead of SoCs, and dividing by 2.78 to get SoCs, and turning that into tablet sales, which would be incredibly stupid even for them), if they’re at least counting true mobile SoCs (the ones with a GPU, wifi, and reasonable performance/ARM revision and RAM+I/O handling), it’s probable those SoCs do end up in something tablet-y, with a “high-res” (VGA+) screen and wifi. Otherwise paying for those expensive chips instead of their cheaper GPU-less, wifi-less brethren makes no sense.

        Edit: for example, this is the “best of” list from my router info go-to site, for non-Intel high-end-SoC routers (choose SOC-2 as a filter): The SoCs are really different.

      • charly

        There is data published for the Samsung/Apple/Sony etc.end of the tablet market. As they are mostly sold by big established makers and sold in the traditional outlets for these products so i doubt that gartner etc. have difficulty in seeing this market. Chinese no brand market is obviously much more difficult

      • mjoecups

        Where are these android toasters you keep mentioning?

      • If that stick uses a chip that the vendor considers as being aimed at tablets, it may well end up in ‘tablet’ stats.

    • Walt French

      Let’s consider the new XBox. It has internet capabilities. How many of them will be sold into households where another device isn’t the primary, often secondary internet capability?

      I.e., not many people will buy an XBox for its internet capability, except for multiplayer games. There’ll be essentially zero app economy built around them.

      Or so I believe. Am I right?

      • obarthelemy

        there’ll be a content economy though: both videos and extra game levels will be purchasable online (ditto for the PS4). As will small games (Tetris and such). Not sure about big games or non-gaming apps.

        Aside for content purchases; the xbox has Skype and vocal chat… apparently, insulting foes and partners alike while playing is a major feature :-p

  • obarthelemy

    Several issues:

    1- I’m not sure the comparison with VCD is very relevant: VCD was a media format only, and was incompatible with anything else. White-brand Android is an ecosystem, whose media and apps **are** compatible with Google’s Android – even the famed gapps (Google Apps: PlayStore, Maps, Now, Gmail, Search,…) are generally just a .apk install away, which take all of 2 minutes.

    2- Not all untracked Android devices are tablets, far from it: phones, desktops, media players, mobile or living-room gaming consoles, and laptops also avoid detection.

    3- The “use case” discrimination cuts both ways: how many premium/branded tablets are only used for the tasks you seem to deem unworthy of true tablets ? Should we then subdivide Apple’s sales into “PC replacement” and “just dumb media+social, duh” buckets ?

    • robdk

      Well, i think you should be directing your criticism to Gartner and IDC. They are clearly propogating the lie that iPad is only 30-40% of global tablet shipments, and falling rapidly. Cue the comparisons with PC/Mac. Cue the articles on SeekingAlpha claiming Apple’s immediate bankruptcy, etc.

      It is clearly a conspiracy to create the image of an isolated and falling Apple. Maybe paid for by Sammy!?

      It is clear that these white box chinese android tablets are not being used as iPads or nexus tabs are. Many are not even used as tablets; they are glued to office doors as glorified ‘do not disturb’ signs, as Bens’s clearly article shows.

      • obarthelemy

        There’s zero evidence at all to support the “do not disturb” theory. He’s not giving out figures, and I have yet to see a single of those.

        It’s weird to see all those “analysts” with a liking for Apple clutching at straws to try and make it look like cheap tablets shouldn’t be counted because… because… well, since they can do most everything expensive tablets can do, because they’re bought by poorer people who don’t spend hundreds nor even tens of $$ on content. Let’s try that for small cars with low maintenance costs, and small apartments. Not really cars, nor houses, huh ?

      • robdk

        Read Ben’s article.

        For many of these so called android tablets, they are NOT tablets. They are estimated from sales of ARM SoCs, RAM, etc.

        They are just as likely to be counting smart toasters with android installed, not tablets.

        Remember, no android EOMs actually report their tablet sales,

      • That would be a valid point if it were not for that fact that most of these tablets do not appear to be being used in the same way as expensive tablets. Perhaps you should read the posts.

      • obarthelemy

        I’m seeing expensive tablets used in the exact same way as cheaps tablets every day all around me.

        A few expensive tablets are indeed used for stuff that would be harder to do on cheap tablets (integrating Android into an Apple media ecosystem is a bit of a pain, though doable; the Notes’ pressure-sensitive pen is a major Unique Selling Point); on the other side of the equation, I’ve pushed a few dumbphone users to cheap Androids just for the games, emails, camera, and ergonomics; but the overwhelming majority of users have the exact same uses whatever the price, brand and ecosystem of their tablet or phone.

        At least around me, brand choice is mostly an image thing.

      • usage

        Why do you constantly ignore all available usage figures?

      • poke

        You’re missing the point. They’re trying to explain why the estimated sales figures don’t match up with usage and engagement figures; nothing more. The hypothesis is that these media devices are being used for pirated content and other uses that are very far from normal tablet usage. Many of them are not even going online, content is side-loaded onto them (hence the VCD comparison; VCD was the old way of distributing pirated content in Asian, now it comes on memory cards that you slot into a cheap Android media player). These devices are not part of any ecosystem and never will be. They are irrelevant to the success of either platform.

      • pk_de_cville

        Obarth is being paid to miss the point. Who’s paying him? Probably his pride, as he’s been doing a one note Samba for years here and elsewhere. He’s good at it.

        He’ll actually engage in logical ‘argument’. But he chooses the facts and he’s never met contrary evidence that he gives credence to.

        At the end, he’ll out last all of us because he’s dedicated and must be a great typist/dictationist and he must have lots of time on his hands.

        I wish him well, but sometimes he writes something that makes sense. It just takes time to find it.

        (Obarth Comment Count Now 2372 comments)

      • DarwinPhish

        “I’m seeing expensive tablets used in the exact same way as cheaps tablets every day all around me.”

        But are you seeing cheap tablets used the same way as expensive ones?

        I’ve seem people use a tablet as a glorified radio but I have never surfed the internet on a radio. There is nothing wrong with either use case, but I would never include radio sales with tablets.

      • obarthelemy

        “I’m seeing expensive tablets used in the exact same way as cheaps tablets every day all around me.”

        But are you seeing cheap tablets used the same way as expensive ones?

        I lolled. I think it’s called reflexivity. If A=B then B=A.

      • Flexxer

        I think it’s called not understanding your own post. Your original sentence clearly didn’t (logically) mean A=B, allthough I’m sure that’s what you were trying to say.

      • DarwinPhish

        No, its not and if you can not see this, you are either being deliberately obtuse or really need to take a course on logic. Just because all dogs are mammals doesn’t mean all mammals are dogs. Or to pull out a car analogy, a Ferrari and a Yaris can both go slow, but they both can not both go fast.

      • obarthelemy

        Well, to run away with your example, once stuck in traffic, I see plenty of Ferraris going as slow as Yarris, and, recoprocally, plenty of Yarris going as fast as Ferraris.

        This is a complicated analogy so I’ll explain: in the analagoy, Yaris are cheap tablets, Ferraris expensive tablets, and traffic is “in the hands of users”.

      • DarwinPhish

        Thanks, you have cleared things up. I have no doubt that you are being deliberately obtuse.

      • Kizedek

        Interesting. And I bet if we read the brochures listing their specs we’d learn how the Yaris specs beat the Ferrari in all sorts of ways, and how one can do exactly the “same things” with the Yaris, if not more!

        The Yaris can come with 4 doors instead of 2;
        It has more windows;
        the Yaris is taller and has more road clearance;
        the Yaris is safer to drive;
        You can get it in more colors;

        Wow, so much better than the Ferrari — in every way, except actual usage and user experience!

      • obarthelemy

        Actually, I’d recommend a Yaris over a Ferrari to most anyone indeed. Cost, insurance, trunk space… :-p And you can get one for everyone in the family for 1/5th the price of a Ferrari.

      • Kizedek

        Oh, me too. Analogies only go so far (another example of your being deliberately obtuse).

      • charly

        Those ‘do not disturb’ signs need good touch so they are probably not the cheapest tablets.

    • Walt French

      Methinks claiming that neither Horace or Ben were saying anything so pejorative as “unworthy” of true tablets — so you’re creating a bit of a strawman here.

      I’ve been a bit surprised to see the extent to which iPads *ARE* used as kiosks or vertical, mostly-single-purpose devices. (I’m in an airport where there are hundreds set up as menu/games/internet devices, and I patronize a couple of cafes & coffee shops that run off Square on an iPad.) Apple is indeed happy to sell devices to those businesses.

      Many of the examples that Ben wrote up are good opportunities for systems integrators, people who’ll customize software for a very specific need. The tablets I describe (the non-“ordinary user” devices) are still opportunities for the independent app vendors. The two categories overlap quite a bit, with the distinction being that the Apple brand and UI are prominent for the user on their devices, while the others’ OS, app variety, etc., are really unknown and irrelevant to the people who encounter them.

      • Glaurung-Quena

        “I’ve been a bit surprised to see the extent to which iPads *ARE* used as kiosks or vertical, mostly-single-purpose devices”

        It doesn’t make much sense if you look at the hardware costs, but I can think of two reasons why so many Ipads end up being used as kiosks where a much cheaper Android tablet would do:

        1, The company knows Apple is upscale, and Android is downscale, and they don’t want to give the impression that they are downscale, so they spend the money on Ipads.
        2, either the app they want to use is an IOS app, or the developer they’ve hired to write their app prefers to work in IOS, so they end up with Ipads.

        Both ways, it comes down to Apple owning all the mindshare when it comes to tablets.

      • Walt French

        Then there’s the reliability and standardization issues. Busted / frozen kiosks are very quickly a significant expense, as they take away 100% of the value at that location, turning it into a reputation for chintziness/shoddiness.

        Very few competitive tablets have anywhere close to Apple’s consistency over the multi-year lifetimes these devices are intended for; you’d be constantly worried about changes in case size, speaker locations and of course, your custom software working across multiple devices. When a customer cracks a screen with an errant plate, you quickly have a motley assortment of devices.

        Those reasons get very important for dispersed, corporate-type installations specced at Corporate and used by field managers whose expertise is food service / whatever. It’s about MUCH more than mindshare.

  • splamco

    VCD’s did not have an API, VCD was just a codec. Android has an API that millions of people have learned and write to. It is a platform (and rapidly becoming a ubiquitous one), unlike VCD’s.

    • If a device runs software that has an API, does it matter that no one who buys that device installs any software that makes use of that API?

      Symbian had an API and a huge market share.
      RIM’s BlackBerry phones had an API and a commanding presence in the smartphone market.

      These were, and still are, platforms. Simply being a platform does not signal success, even one with a large market share. Conversely, just having a large market share does not guarantee a platform’s success.

      • Walt French

        My recollection is that during the VCD era, movies actually *were* called “software.” Of course the discs were mostly content, but they often had a menu or script embedded, making that characterization ever-so-slightly true.

        From today’s perspective, that’s not accurate. But today’s apps are almost as disposable, or one-time-only use—I confess to having a fair number of apps that I can’t recall why I thought they were worth the tiny effort to download, and there are probably quite a few I’ve never actually run. Perhaps we’ll have a different understanding of platforms, OS’s, software and apps a few more years hence.

    • DarwinPhish

      The comparison is VCD’s to low priced tablets, not to Android.

  • charly

    Another big reason why VCD was a local success is because Southeast Asia is very hot and humid and that is something Video cassettes don’t like at all.

  • charly

    The iPad wasn’t the first arm tablets with a browser on the market. In
    fact it is the usual me too Apple product that so overwhelms the competition
    that the inventors are forgotten in time just as what happen with the
    Those devices like the Archos 605 were mainly used for media
    consumption so when another wifi enabled tablet with a browser,
    touch-screen and store arrived it was logical to put it in the pvp
    sector so that is why the ipad ended up in that sector.

    • Kizedek

      Except iOS and its OS X underpinnings, APIs and general capabilities had been known for three years prior to launch.

      It can hardly be me-too, when it was in development before the iPhone.

      • charly

        I think it has to do with reach. If Archos does something it is lucky if the tech press talk about it, if Sharp does it they would be lucky if it in the tech sector of a newspaper. If Apple adds a color to the range of ipads it is still frontpage news for the new york times.

        ps. The Archos 605 came out before the iphone api IIRC. Sharp sold a mini linux in Japan also before at the end on 2009

  • peter

    With iOS we know that every copy drives either an iPhone, iPad or iPod.

    With Android it is not so easy to know what it does (see link below, though I’m not sure if those products ship in any great quantity). ARM SoCs, LCD screens and Android copies are really just components that bear no direct relationship to any class of device.

    It is good to know that Horace and Ben have their wits about them. Some of the commenters below seem not to realise how sparse our data really is and happily skate on very thin ice.

    The real question is not whether Android is successful (it is), but rather what it is successful in and whom it is benefiting.

  • smackfu

    “If a tablet overlaps considerably in the work it does with a PC (e.g. browsing, email, media play, and other applications) then they should be considered comparable.”

    Wouldn’t the same logic also require smart phones in general to be thrown into the mix?

    • jinglesthula
    • Kizedek

      There is a difference between:

      1) doing something out of necessity or because it is possible: ie. checking mail on your phone because you are walking or standing in a bus.

      2) doing something out of preference.

      Mail is close (I could as happily do mail on a desktop/laptop/iPad). But iPad is more convenient (such as sitting on the sofa).

      But I now do many things on my iPad out of preference over doing those same things on a PC/Mac. These include many aspects of running my Freelance business: recording expenses, doing accounting, tracking time and projects, making notes, brainstorming..

      And of course, certain things like communicating, social interaction, anything location based, and presenting ideas to people are pretty much hands-down better on an iPad.

    • Walt French

      You will never get hard-and-fast rules to apply to everybody. Some people I know have a smartphone but no regular access to a PC; they naturally use the phone for (their very little) use of email. And the lines are fluid; with usage shifting from email to facebook+instagram, for example.

      Ben’s point is good: there are many tablet-like devices that have an internet connection, and show media with a touchscreen interface, that serve many needs OTHER than as a truly personal computer. Best example for me: the personal TV and info screens in the seatbacks of many planes.

  • Jessica Darko

    Dude. There are no reliable ways to measure android phone sales either. ALL of those above criteria exist for phones, plus “activations” is propaganda number, not a statistic.

    Yet you pretend like activations are sales and compare directly with audited actual results from Apple, spinning the story that android is winning.

    • charly

      Activations are a more trustworthy statistic for use than sales and it is use that is important for the software market because a sale can mean it ends up in the closet without ever being used

      • Kizedek

        For Android, activations gives better picture than sales, because of channel issues and returns, etc. Apple’s sales figures are accurate and pretty much equal to activations. For Apple, sales figures can be safely used when talking about Apple’s profits and economic situation, which is not gloomy despite what anyone says. They can be safely used because, as Jessica says, they are audited.

        I don’t know if the overall true picture is quite as distorted as Jessica makes out, but I do believe that conservative figures are used for Apple, while the most optimistic ones are used for Android.

        For example, beyond sales, we might talk about the value of Apple’s ecosystem and user base. In such a discussion, the largest, most optimistic Android numbers are continually put forward, with people coming out of the woodwork assuring us that “activations” are legitimately made once per active phone, etc. And we are assured that Chinese phones are only counted if they really do legitimately connect to the Google store, etc.

        On the Apple side, we talk about iTunes accounts. These require a credit card / bank acct to be attached. Furthermore, we know the number is much smaller than the active userbase, because families typically use one iTunes account, supporting perhaps 5 actively used mobile devices (plus computers and Apple TVs). The average spend is put at about 50 bucks per account. I think that is conservative.

      • charly

        Activation are by definition better. They show devices not only sold but turned on. Apple’s activation numbers would be better for the software market than numbers sold though i doubt that there is much of a difference.

        Problem with itunes accounts is that there number is higher than the number of ios + mac OSX devices so somewhere there has to be leakages. And a big one too

        $50 is only $15 for Apple, nice but not earthy scattering

      • Space Gorilla

        Actually the number of iTunes accounts is *lower* than total iOS + Mac devices. You and numbers charly, tsk, tsk.

      • charly

        +/- 500 million IOS + +/- 80 million macs is less than 600 million

      • Space Gorilla

        As I said, numbers and truth don’t mix well around you.

      • charly

        This assumes that all IOS & macs have their own individual account, something which is absolutely not true.

      • Space Gorilla

        Your are correct, which is why the number of iTunes accounts is *lower* than the total number of devices. As. I. Said.

        Dude, you gotta pick one story and stick to it. So, now you’ve said, in the space of just a few comments:

        1. There are more iTunes accounts than iOS + Mac devices.

        2. There are less iTunes accounts than iOS + Mac devices.

        Make up your mind.

      • Kizedek

        I was pretty clear in my post that many families use one main iTunes account, as do we. Attached to our account are 5 mobile devices and 3 Macs.

        I allow my kids their own devices; and I allow them to consume and download media and apps, with some restrictions. …but I don’t allow them their own credit card.

      • mlabrow

        I would argue that activations are not equivalent to very much simply because of returns. A device is activated at first use. Great. Unfortunately for your logic, that then does not preclude a return. With many android devices having attested return rates of over 30%, and some up over 100% (devices that break, are replaced, and then break or are returned again), this all goes towards device activation inflation. This then distorts the picture further since those returned devices are less likely to re-enter the market, and are likely to be shipped back to the manufacturer for repair or more likely disposal.

        The problem that Horace is trying to tackle is really interesting. It goes beyond activations. If a feature phone user upgrades to an Android device because they have no other option (can’t find a feature phone or got an android one because it was free on contract), but has no desire to do more than feature phone use with it, is that an ecosystem user? If not does that activation or sale count for anything in the long term? How exactly do you measure ecosystem vs. ecosystem, and what does it mean to say that one or the other is larger? Will the larger one ‘defeat’ the smaller? Will they continue to exist in side by side harmony?

        It’s very likely that the lessons we ‘learned’ from the PC era do not hold in mobile, and a new set of rules will become dominant. The issue is getting past our own preconceived notions to figure out what they are and not what we wish them to be.

      • charly

        Do you really think crappy phones are the reason for Androids Billion plus activations?

      • Kizedek

        totally. I was trying to present to charly, that, whatever way you cut it, the Android figures are overly optimistic.

  • Ritchard Istace

    I’m obviously late to this discussion. However after reading some of the comments – and particularly the (obviously) intentionally-obtuse trolling, I felt the need to comment. Recognizing that I’m a single data point, I’m an example of the phenomenon under speculation. The Android tablet that has been both shipped and activated, but generates almost no traffic or revenue.

    I own a MacBook Pro, iPad (3rd generation), an iPod Touch and an iPhone 5. I bought a white box Android tablet out of curiosity and because I wanted a better perspective on these kind of discussion. I opted for the best specs that I could get under $200 – 1.5Ghz quad core processor, HDMI out, 2GB RAM, 16GB FLASH storage, 802.11n Wi-Fi and running Google Android 4.1.1. I had hoped in particular to use it while travelling so as not to put a more expensive iPad at risk of damage or loss.

    So far I’ve spent about $5.00 on Google Play (in 5 months) to buy apps that I hoped might work. The problem is that it bogs down so very quickly any time I try to use it that it’s a completely unpalatable experience. Battery life is horrible. The screen is almost acceptable as long as I don’t look at one of my iOS devices. My three-year-old iPod touch outperforms it in every category except screen size.

    So I use it for occasions when I know I won’t have Wi-Fi available. I’ll put a couple of videos on it and watch while travelling. That’s the limit of its use to me.

    It would not surprise me in the least that the vast majority of these devices end up serving as glorified video players – consistent with the “Dark Matter” hypothesis.