Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

This is a tale about how statistics and numbers can be misrepresented to lend credence to a particular viewpoint or to support conclusions that don't necessarily follow logically.

Recently there has much made of the results of a survey conducted by research firm NDP that showed Android phone sales accounted for 28% of smartphone sales in the first quarter of 2010. During this same period, 21% of those sales were iPhones[1].

It should be noted here that industry researcher Gartner reported Android phones accounted for 9.6 percent of all smartphones sold in the first quarter of 2010. Gartner also reported the first quarter of 2010 was Apple's "strongest quarter yet," with a 112.2 percent increase in mobile device sales[3].

Some blog authors claimed that the Android user base had overtaken that of the iPhone. To my way of thinking, a product's user base would include every current owner of that particular brand of smartphone.

Through the end of 2009, the number of iPhones sold was 41.2 million, the number of Android phones (all brands) sold was 8.5 million[2]. During the first quarter of this year, 8.7 million iPhones were sold[2]. I couldn't find a firm figure for first quarter Android sales, but using the percents cited in the NDP report and some simple math, Android sales would be around 11.6 million. This, however, far exceeds the current average daily shipment of 65,000 Android phones reported by Google[4], which would be about 5.9 million for a quarter.

Using the most liberal of these figures means that total Android sales through the end of March 2010 is about 20.1 million, or about 40% of the approximately 50 million iPhones sold through that time. Thus, though the Android phone appears to have made strong gains in the smartphone market, its user base is still significantly smaller than that of the iPhone. (And, both are much smaller than that of the Blackberry.)

Some have gone as far as claiming the first quarter numbers signify a preference for Android phones over iPhones. Although that may be the case, it doesn't necessarily follow directly from these numbers. Perhaps the strong sales are among customers who would like an iPhone but haven't wanted to deal with AT&T. These consumers are buying Verizon rather than Android. Maybe the Android buyers are consumers who might buy an iPhone, but don't want to use AT&T. Furthermore, during that time there were buy one, get one offers on some Android phones as well as other promotional offers.

So, what do the numbers really mean? That, my friend, depends on what you want them to mean!

[1] Android Shakes Up U.S. Smartphone Market, May 10, 2010, http://www.npd.com/press/releases/press_100510.html
[2] from NumberOf.net, http://www.numberof.net/
[3] Researcher: Google Android Sales Skyrocket, May 19, 2010, http://cellphones.about.com/b/2010/05/19/researcher-google-android-sales-skyrocket.htm
[4] 65,000 Android phones shipping every day: Google, May 13, 2010, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jtZT_1rdNJFpfU_fwWMiugrx8JMw

1 comment:

Julie Reulbach said...

Love this! Working on my misleading stats lesson now and will use it! thanks!

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