We have received a statistic that is so counter-intuitive and bizarre, but I think we can make some sense out of it. This comes from StatCounter who measure global web and mobile traffic. So this is not new phone sales, this is not a measurement of installed bases, it is a measurement of actual usage of devices. On StatCounter members page, I have used the filter of ‘mobile OS’ for Mobile device operating systems. Note, it is not just cellular use, it includes Wi-Fi use (Sony PlayStation Portable is included) which means that the iOS category includes both the iPhone and the iPod Touch use. But look at the graph. And look at Symbian use for the past six months… What the Heck is happenin’ here?

Surprising stats: Symbian OS recovers to capture 35% of the market, iOS drops to 20%, Android grows to 18%
Surprising stats: Symbian OS recovers to capture 35% of the usage market, iOS drops to 20%, Android grows to 18%. Yes, even Sony PSP is more used than all Windows-based phones combined.

The graph is taken from StatCounter website, so please link there to get latest numbers. But the finding
is bizarre and very counter-intuitive. It does show clearly the rise of Android (purple line) – no problem there. It shows clearly the peak of the Blackberry (black line) and the decline, no surprise there. 

It shows a strange gradual decline of the Apple iOS (green line) for the past year and a half, but do not worry, that makes perfect sense as this is a percentage of the whole of global mobile OS usage, so remember, while iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users have very high usage, their proportion of the total installed base is now declining, as a percentage, vs. Android specifically. Early on, we could all download the Angry Birds only on an iPhone but Angry Birds then went to Android and now is on most platforms etc…  while some of the exceptionally heavy usage that only iPhone (and Touch) users could do a couple of years ago, is now spread more evenly across all platforms. The iOS total usage is still well above its installed base, due to the fact that all iPhones are very easy to use, most are on data plans, and you have iPod Touch and iPad all boosting the iOS total usage number (just like tablets are boosting Android usage as well). However, the iOS line (green line) will
continue to decline and eventually settle somewhat above Apple’s actual market share i.e. somewhere near 20%.

The weird odd-man-out is Symbian (blue line). What? Symbian has been losing market share of new phone sales forever, been called obsolete and so on (it started with 100% initially, obviously so it’s only way was down over time) and from first quarter of 2011 Android has passed Symbian as the bestselling smartphone OS in new sales. The installed base will lag that statistic, obviously (many of us still have older phones) so yes, Symbian is bigger in installed base and it makes sense its usage is above that of Android, while Android is growing. But what happened from December 2010? 

In the last seven months, Symbian usage has grown significantly! Even as new sales of Symbian based phones are now crashing, the USAGE of Symbian is growing. More than that, look at the graph – Nokia’s Symbian is TAKING MARKET SHARE FROM APPLE?  Say what? While Android is obviously taking ‘more’ market share (in usage) from the iPhone and both Symbian and Android are taking it from Blackberry, but Symbian?

This is the ‘burning platforms’ Symbian, the same one that Nokia CEO said was rejected by consumers and had to die. The one he wants to replace with Microsoft Windows Phone 7 (which is so little it doesn’t show in the graph, it is part of "other" graph). And since about December the usage of Symbian has grown quite strongly from about 30% to about 35%… This from the platform that was killed on February 11?

Nokia N8 - One of best-selling smartphones of 2010First of all, why? The reason is quite simple – mostly because of Ovi, secondly because of operator billing and operator/carrier support, and thirdly because of Nokia’s reach in markets where there are not many PCs (Asia, Africa, Latin America) where for many less affluent users, their Nokia phone is their PC equivalent. But if you show this graph to any… say advertiser or app developer or brand or bank or partner, isn’t this a clear verification that Symbian is clearly the biggest mobile OS out there, has the biggest total traffic and should be not "one of the big 3" platforms, it is clearly the biggest platform by a large margin. While we are mentioning "The big 3" - again, Microsoft does not even register, so all the FUD that Microsoft is spreading as being one of the big three platforms is nothing else but defending the stock and misleading the market). 

But yes, the uptick. Why is the reversal of the trend in December? That timing is because Nokia’s new OS Symbian S^3 came to the market globally on the N8 and other premium Nokia smartphones. So the latest Symbian S^3 is indeed far more user-friendly and consumers like it – and users are using it! (And now in
July Symbian has been updated even more with Anna). Do bear in mind that Nokia’s N8 phone reached the three million phones sold – in 10 days less than it took Samsung’s Galaxy S II, best selling Android phone of all time
(read: until today).

Why would anyone argue that Symbian is dying? That Nokia is somehow losing to Apple, if Symbian USAGE is taking market share from iPhone USAGE? Seriously? That is what this evidence is, globally. Don’t tell me the N8 is a lousy phone and Symbian is obsolete. It would be impossible to see these stats if that was so. N8 from high-end, and Nokia’s entry-level smartphones from another all promise free GPS navigation for life, and that is one of key drivers for platform growth. Customers don’t want to pay for Tom Tom’s, Garmins and other devices with hard-to-update maps. Just check their sales projections and sales managers complaning about phones coming into their market niche.

Symbian in its latest edition is strong, and if you ask users – of their actual usage of what they have in their pocket – these numbers are rather clear. Symbian usage is growing. I think the CEO of the company who owns that platform should not be setting fires, but rather embracing this GROWTH in usage and cherish it and support it. The only sound thing to do would be to support the migration of Nokia developers from Symbian to MeeGo so that MeeGo would become the third platform with about 35% of total global mobile OS usage… Yeah, the obvious strategy is pretty.. obvious. To everyone but ones schooled in Redmond’s school of thought.